Tuition cut to cost Rye $30 million, may cause reduction in faculty

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By Kiernan Green

Ryerson University will lose around $30 million of its operating budget in the 2019-20 year due to the 10 per cent tuition cut for Ontario students, according to Ryerson public affairs manager Johanna VanderMaas.

In the 2018-19 year, Ryerson’s budget was $600 million, VanderMaas said.

The 10 per cent tuition cut for domestic student tuition was announced as part of the Ontario government’s sweeping changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)  in January.

For Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), changes under the tighter budget may include larger class sizes and fewer courses offered each year, said FCAD Dean Charles Falzon.

He said his goal is to make the effect of the budget changes “as seamless as humanly possible for students.”

“The government is doing its job, and we have to do ours. The government has to make difficult decisions…we have to make some difficult decisions, too,” he said.

Gyllian Phillips, the president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), said despite a rise in enrollment because of OSAP grants given out by the previous government, university public funding has been lacking for years.

The government has to make difficult decisions…we have to make some difficult decisions, too

Phillips said that OCUFA have long supported tuition reductions. However, the recently announced tuition reductions amount to a loss without a matched increase of public funding, she said.

“All of these [changes] are a much deeper bite out of student life and the quality of education than folks might realize at first” she said. “The result of that has been that more than 50 per cent of courses at universities are taught by contract faculty.”

“Contract faculty receive a fraction of the wage of their full-time counterparts. Also, theirs are jobs that are much easier to cut,” she added.

When a university has to cut its budget, Phillips says “folks under contracts and under precarious positions get laid off.”

According to Philips, the dismissal of contract professors can negatively impact student opportunities—such as reference letters for grad school or opportunities to receive mentorship outside of the classroom.

Falzon said it’s a “real focus to minimize the effect [the tuition cut] has on people’s jobs” within FCAD. There will be reductions in part-time offerings and a redeployment of work for some, he said.

“I am hoping that we can do more with less,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.

The university will host community consultations to form a new budget that preserves the integrity of education quality for students, he said.

The consultations will include three town halls called “Ideas Campaigns” in February and several meetings with student unions and board members. According to the Ryerson website, the Ideas Campaigns are meant to encourage staff, faculty and students to share their own ideas of how to create new revenue for the university.

At the first of the town halls, provost and vice-president academic Michael Benarroch said Ryerson’s long term plan included taking “calculated risks” such as receiving revenue from 500 more international students next year and reducing net revenue by $29 million.

International students pay around $25,926 to $29,219 per year, according to Ryerson’s website.

Because international student tuition won’t be affected by the cut, it may “increase to be more in line with our peer institutions,” said VanderMaas.

Benarroch also said due to the government’s cuts to OSAP, this was “not the year” to reduce scholarships.

Next year’s budget will be finalized in April according to a Ryerson Board of Governors meeting report.

The Eye previously reported that some international students were worried that their tuition would rise as a result of the cut to domestic tuition.

“It’s not fair to decide [to raise international tuition fees] because when they came here, they came with the idea that this is the type of tuition fee they’re paying,” Lachemi told The Eye in January.

Domestic students will pay around $660 less annually, according to the Ontario government’s press release.  

The tuition cuts, along with other changes to OSAP and ancillary fees, are motivated by Ontario’s tuition rates which surpass all others in the country, according to the province’s press release.  

Indeed, Ontario undergraduate students paid $8,500 on average last year for school, compared to $2,400 in Quebec or $5,700 in Alberta, according to Statistics Canada. Ryerson’s domestic tuitions fees range from $7,639 to $12,241.

Falzon said that he’s optimistic the tuition reduction won’t affect the quality of Ryerson or FCAD. The university’s industry partnerships and creations such as Zone Learning will “support [FCAD] going forward,” he said.

“Innovation, entrepreneurship—that’s in the DNA of Ryerson. I think that we are able to navigate through rough weathers in a way that maybe some other, more traditional universities are not,” he said.

“Is [the tuition cut] difficult? Sure. Do I wish that we didn’t have to sharpen our pencils? Sure. But I’m not worried.”

With files from Izabella Balcerzak

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