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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2002

Ontario Says No to Tuition Deregulation

The Ontario government has rejected a proposal from Queen's University to allow the provinces' universities to set undergraduate arts tuition fees at whatever levels they want.

Queen's University principal William Leggett had asked Universities Minister Dianne Cunningham to completely lift the annual limit of two per cent on increases to undergraduate tuition currently imposed by the province.

"The Queen's proposal has been carefully reviewed in the context of the entire post-secondary education sector," Cunningham wrote in a letter to Leggett Jan 23. "I am now advising you that the government is not prepared to make any exception to the regulated system of tuition fees at this time."

Queen's has been lobbying the provincial government for more than a year to deregulate undergraduate tuition fees. The issue sparked a series of protests at the university, including a student occupation of the principal's office in January.

"Given the level of opposition to this proposal to allow unlimited tuition fee increases for undergraduate programs at Queen's University, the government has made a prudent decision," said Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "The government must now act to re-regulate all tuition fees to ensure higher education remains affordable for Ontarians."

Duff noted that after the government lifted tuition caps on some graduate professional programs such as business, medicine and law, fees skyrocketed. Medical school tuition at the University of Western Ontario jumped to $10,753 from $4,844, and the University of Toronto is considering raising its annual tuition fee for law students to $22,000.

Leggett expressed disappointment with the government's decision, and immediately warned the university would have to trim $8 million — or the equivalent of 80 full-time faculty positions — from its budget.

"It (is) not my intention to create the impression that there would be absolutely no layoffs or redeployment at Queen's among unionized employees or support staff," Leggett stated in a memo to the university community. "I wish I could make this guarantee, but clearly a cut of $8 million cannot be achieved by attrition alone, and I expect there will be a number of positions that are eliminated."

Those who campaigned against deregulation, however, say Leggett is simply trying to sow dissension between faculty members and students.

"Leggett is showing that he cares more about his pet project of tuition deregulation than he does about the quality of education at Queen's," the Queen's Coalition Against Deregulation said in a statement. "Slashing these jobs is an attempt to drive down the quality of education at Queen's so as to manufacture evidence that quality suffers without deregulation. It is punitive and unnecessary. We all know Queen's has an endowment of more than $200 million."