By Sandie Benitah
The Ontario government’s decision last week to reject the deregulation of tuition fees for regular undergraduate programs left most Ontario university students cheering.
Ryerson students just looked on in envy.
Nothing has changed in the existing legislation that says universities are allowed to charge whatever they please for professionally-related programs. Unfortunately, these are the programs that make up Ryerson.
The Queen’s University appeal to the government to let it decide on the tuition of their undergraduate programs was rejected by Minister of Higher Education Dianne Cunningham, who said that the government wasn’t ready to make any exception to the existing regulated system of tuition fees.
Now, despite what this means for other universities who thrive on their undergraduate programs, Ryerson students don’t seem themselves winning their battle against drastic tuition hikes anytime soon.
After the Harris government made cuts to education, schools were left with the responsibility for finding their own way to fund themselves in order to maintain quality standards. Many saw an opportunity to do just that in 1998, when the government decided to lift the bar on what universities could charge for their programs.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, since the amendment tuition in someone Ontario universities has gone up as much as 700%. Ryerson is no exception. The fees for popular applied programs have gone up significantly in the past four years. The engineering, ITM, and computer science programs, who have the largest student enrolment in first year, have gone up by about $300.
Although the government’s ruling against Queen’s brings no good news for Ryerson students, Alex Lisman, RyeSAC’s v.p. education, insists that this is a positive outcome for everyone. “This shows students engaged in principled action can have a serious effect on government policy,” he says. “Now our task is to get administration to freeze deregulation but also to put pressure on the government to stop deregulation altogether.”
Putting his words into action, Lisman, along with RyeSAC, is participating in the National Day of Action on February 6, helping organize a student rally to Queen’s Park to protest deregulation.
However, RyeSAC president, Odelia Bay, suggests that this just isn’t enough.
“The resources the school has aren’t enough to sustain what we have to offer,” she says. “We need more government funding. We need this university’s administration to join us in our fight.
“Instead, Ryerson’s administration is accepting what they’ve been dealt.”
Ryerson’s administration was unavailable for comment on the situation.
While private funding can help ease the strain of not having government financial support, Lisman hesitates to accept the idea.
“The problem with private funding is the majority (of cash) doesn’t go to basic operations such as teaching and maintenance. Instead it’s often targeted. The university should tell the government, ‘we’re in a crisis.’”
Until then, Lisman warns, Ryerson students have a long road ahead of them until they too can join in the celebration.
“At Ryerson, we have our problems cut out for us,” he says. “Ryerson administration has every intention of further deregulating. No doubt about it.”