Ontario allows heads to set fees

January 30, 1998

Ontario's education ministry has freed universities to raise tuition fees for graduate and professional programmes by whatever the market will bear.

But, although the province's university presidents have consistently backed deregulation, they are unhappy that the announcement was not backed by increases in their grants.

The presidents believe that revenue from the increases, which will also include an option to raise undergraduate tuition fees by 5 per cent for the next two years, will not make up for operating and research shortfalls.

At McMaster University in Hamilton a much-in-demand programme such as software engineering will cost the university about Can$10,000 (Pounds 4,300) per student, but even if fees were raised substantially from the current Can$3,400, it would not cover half.

"At the end of the day, I don't see the government sharing its load of the obligation," said Bonnie Patterson, head of the Council of Ontario Universities.

In 1996, the Ontario government commissioned an advisory report on the future of the province's post-secondary sector.

The Smith report, endorsed by the presidents, called for the deregulation of fees. One of the fundamental pillars of that report was bringing Ontario university operating grants up to the Canadian average.

Ontario is in tenth place among the country's ten provinces in their per-capita funding of universities. The national average is Can$191, while Ontario spends Can$130.

"We need binoculars just to see number nine," said William Leggett, principal of Queen's University in Kingston. Government's policies are leading to a brain-drain into the US of his faculty and those of his provincial colleagues.

The universities, however, may not have too much room to move when it comes to tuition fee increases. Since 1992, tuition fees for the average undergraduate student have doubled from Can$1,800 to Can$3,600.

"We are moving from being a publicly funded university to being a publicly assisted university," said Mordechai Rozanski, president of Guelph University.

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