Ontario recently announced that its tuition freeze will be extended for another year to the 2022-2023 academic year. The freeze was initially introduced in 2019 when the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario ended the “Free Tuition Program” that was introduced in 2018 by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
Premier Ford compensated for the ending of this program by introducing a 10 per cent reduction in tuition fees for domestic students in 2019-2020, followed by a tuition freeze in 2020-2021, according to CBC.
While this might be a sigh of relief for many, this has seemingly created strain on international and out-of-province students as the freeze only pertains to domestic students.
“One could argue that our international students are providing the funding that should be coming from our provincial budget,” says Jody Berland, communications officer for the York University Faculty Association (YUFA), who also notes that Ontario has the “lowest per student funding of any province in Canada.”
Per a report by Global News, the Auditor General found Ontario’s public college fee revenue was “increasingly reliant” on international students based on a report from 2021 and that domestic tuition revenue dropped three per cent while international tuition revenue increased 152 per cent in Ontario during the 2016-2017 and 2019-2020 school years.
According to Berland, the reliance on international student tuition funds is something that has become of great concern to YUFA.
Berland and YUFA feel that it is “wrong to force students and their families to pay more for their studies to compensate for shifts in budget planning priorities by the university, which is currently devoting its healthy budget surplus to expansion plans that have more to do with real estate investment then support for faculty, students, and academic programs.”
What Berland is referring to is the amount of “capital projects” that York is investing in, particularly the creation and building of York’s new Markham campus and the Neuroscience Laboratory and Research Building, which recently gained permits to start construction in February 2022.
In a statement from March 17, YUFA noted that York posted a significant budget surplus now totalling $386 million, while programs like AMPD face a $12-million deficit; Faculty of Education, a $10-million dollar deficit; Faculty of Environment and Urban Change, a $12-million dollar deficit; LA&PS and Glendon College have both been informed of significant deficits to their faculties as well.
The newly announced proposal for a new medical school also caught YUFA off guard as they say they, along with the Senate, were not consulted on the matter.
Excalibur reached out to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for a comment on the freeze, how it affects international students, and could potentially affect future post-secondary students.
James Tinajero of the Ministry’s Medial Relations team wrote on their behalf, saying, “Increasing the affordability of post-secondary education is part of Ontario’s plan to help people get the training they need to get good-paying jobs.” Tinajero further states this as the reason for the “historic” 10 per cent tuition reduction in 2019.
“This means that Ontario students no longer pay the highest tuition fees in the country. Although post-secondary institutions have sole autonomy over matters involving international students, we expect that tuition rates for international students to be kept at reasonable levels.”