By Maurice Cacho and Josh Visser
As the Ryerson Students’ Union lobbies for a tuition fee freeze, it has cut the amount of financial aid it offers.
The RSU has budgeted to spend thousands of dollars less for student bursaries this year than in previous years.
For the 2005/2006 term, $30,000 will be available to students as bursaries. Two years earlier, $45,000 of free money passed on to eligible students; last year, $35,000.
Chris Drew, vice-president finance and services, said that the RSU is thinking about the long-term benefits for students.
“What would really help students (instead of bursaries) was if tuition fees were even lower, so they can graduate with less debt,” Drew said.
Besides, he says, students can apply to the university for millions of dollars worth of bursaries. The university can foot the bill because it doesn’t incur the costs of lobbying for lower tuition fees or providing the financial resources for the dozens of campus groups.
“The RSU just doesn’t have the resources,” he said.
He said the RSU prefers to work with other student unions to lobby for reduced tuition.
“We can effect change within the provincial and federal governments by working with other students’ unions, and that has an overall effect of benefiting students,” he said.
The decrease in funding since 2004-2005 represents a 44 per cent decrease in funding per student. Now, with more students going after less money, the average bursary applicant will receive a smaller cheque.
However, the budget shows approximately $10,000 extra funding is available to student groups and event sponsors since cuts were made to bursaries.
“Really, the donation is really subject to how active or how initiative students are showing for various initiatives,” he said.
The RSU was unsuccessful in its campaign to freeze tuition last year. Fees for full-time students has gone up by four per cent, or eight per cent for graduate studies and business students.
“Essentially, the campaigns we’re leading are ‘Grants not Loans,’ or more financial aid for at-need students. That’s the best way we can help students at Ryerson,” said Drew.
However Ryerson politics professor Michael Burke doesn’t think the RSU’s strategy is effective.
“I think it’s very short-sighted to take money out of the pockets of students to fund the (lobbying) process,” he said.
“Lobbying can be an effective tool, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to fund lobbying on the backs of students paying for tuition. I think it’s only aggrevating the situation.”
Drew thinks students would rather get less money from bursaries if it means more resources go into national campaigns.
“Students are very intelligent and they realize that by working together, that’s the best way to effect change. Students do believe that and are very open to that,” he said.
Fourth year retail management student Diana Huynh said the RSU’s excuse isn’t legitimate.
“It’s just sad because students don’t get more money,” he said.
First year hospitality and tourism student Justin Chu said students should write into the RSU to complain.
“It’s not fair,” he said.
RSU executive director Michael Verticchio said a lot of money came in the form of revenue from manageing Oakham House.
Since the SCC was created, the RSU lost about a quarter of a million dollars. “
With an extra $250,000, we could provide a lot more bursaries,” he said.
However, Drew encourages students to take advantage of the cost-saving services RSU currently offers. He said that overall, students can keep more money in their pockets.
If you calculate economies of scale…students are actually saving more,” he said.
—With files from Kody Kunz