By Vanessa Santilli and Adriana Rolston
Ryerson is jacking up tuition by five per cent — the maximum allowed — and students will have to pay it all up front this fall.
Last year, the university promised to split the payment of fees into two equal installments.
Now, the school is going back on its word because it’s hurting for cash.
“I don’t want to lie you,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. “It was the cost to the university of [splitting tuition into two installments] at a time when we had a 1.5 per cent budget cut. Essentially it was not a great year to make a change that cost so much money.”
Splitting tuition fees could cost Ryerson between $1 million and $2 million, said vice provost students Heather Lane Vetere.
She said the cost comes from an analysis done last January based on half of students not paying their fees by the deadline. In January 2008, 10,000 students didn’t pay their tuition fees by deadline.
According to Paul Stenton, vice president university planning, Ryerson’s operating budget will increase by $39.4 million this year. This is because not enough money is coming in through tuition fees and government grants and the school has to slash $3.7 million in departmental costs.
The maximum tuition increase is set by the Ontario government and applies to all the province’s universities.
This leaves universities the freedom to decide how much to raise their tuition as long as it doesn’t surpass the five per cent maximum increase.
If, however, Ryerson decided not to raise tuition as much as possible, it can never regain the money it would lose. The cap would still be five per cent the next year.
The school can choose to raise fees by over five per cent for some programs as long as the increases to other programs’ fees are less than 5 per cent. For instance, students in business, engineering and computer sciences have higher tuition than students in the arts.
The government is also helping universities recover costs lost during the tuition freeze in 2004-05, by allowing them to increase first-year tuition by up to eight per cent for the programs that cost them the most money.
“In doing the calculations, if [the universities] do one program at eight per cent they’ve got to do the other programs to stay within the five per cent cap,” said Greg Flood, spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
This means Ryerson can only increase tuition fees for other programs by up to 4.5 per cent.
Levy says the school has no choice but to raise tuition fees.
If Ryerson didn’t raise tuition it would have to stop salary raises for faculty or cut resources for students.
“So you would have higher class sizes, you would eliminate small labs — a variety of things do ultimately impact the quality of the experience students have,” he said.
The 10,000 students who still had not paid their tuition fees in January 2008, had outstanding balances from $60-$4000.
The university’s temporary solution to help cash strapped students is to reduce tuition fees from 1.5 to 1.25 per cent per month and to delay late fees until October.
But Levy is not happy with this solution and Lane Vetere said she’s continuing to work on a tuition split for students.
Levy says that he would like to see tuition fee payments split into two semesters but that a 50-50 split is not likely.
“I believe that the true answer is that it should be closer to 60-40 like other universities,” he said.
“I don’t think [funding shortages] should let me off the hook of 100-0 to be honest because there’s a whole lot of things that you do that cost you more because its the right thing to do.”