“Flat fees” change and “deferral fees” are done
Ontario announced today that it is making long-anticipated policy changes that will make it easier to pay tuition in that province, a plan that will likely be unpopular with university administrators who will struggle to make up for lost revenue. Beginning in 2014-15, colleges and universities will:
1. No longer be allowed to require fall semester tuition fees before the beginning of August
2. No longer require students who complete Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) applications by the beginning of August to pay their tuition before receiving their financial aid
3. No longer charge deferral fees or interest to those who pay tuition in per-term installments
4. No longer collect deposits of more than $500 or 10 per cent of tuition, whichever is greater
Ontario will also make it cheaper to take less than a full course load. As of fall 2015, university students will be charged on a per-credit basis if they take less than a 70 per cent course load, rather than the full-time student rate charged at some schools. In 2016, that threshold will rise to 80 per cent. Students with disabilities will be charged on a per-credit basis regardless of course loads.
Currently, some universities charge the same tuition rate for anyone taking a course load of 60 per cent or greater. Student groups like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and University of Toronto Students’ Union have long opposed the policy. Meric Gertler, University of Toronto president, recently said that changes to flat fees could cost U of T $16 million a year in lost income.
Graphic: employment outcomes for 10 disciplines
An annual survey by the Council of Ontario Universities asks new graduates what they took in school, whether they were employed full-time two years after graduation and how much money they made. The numbers are useful for tracking the demand for degrees. The trend isn’t looking good.
Chart 1 shows the percentage of grads reporting full-time work two years after university for 10 of the most common degrees. For nine out of 10, fewer class of 2010 grads were employed than class of 2008 grads with the same degrees. (The exception, oddly enough, was journalism.) This suggests things actually got worse for grads since the economy recovered from the 2009 recession.
Chart 2 shows average salaries of graduates two years post-graduation. The overall average has remained around $49,000 since the recession but there were winners and losers. The computer science class of 2010 averaged $5,050 more than the class of 2007. The engineering class of 2010 made $2,032 more. Journalism, however, was down by $2,099 and humanities dropped by $1,509.
Why can we find money for execs but not foreign students?
International students at the University of Alberta are facing a possible five per cent tuition increase next year, equating to $900 to $1,600 per year, depending on the program. They already pay several times as much tuition as domestic students to make up for lack of taxpayer funding. Domestic tuition, meanwhile, is set to rise only one per cent. While many international students have cried out in protest, some domestic students support higher increases for non-Albertans.
I, however, have to side with my international colleagues that this tuition increase is unfair. I can’t imagine the sudden stress they’re under. Why is it that Alberta universities can find millions of dollars for things like $8.1-million executive office upgrades and 3.65% pay raises but can’t keep tuition down for these vulnerable students?
My empathy comes from the experiences I’ve had as a student on a diverse campus. For the past year, I’ve been a writing tutor working exclusively with students who are relatively new to Canada. I meet with an entire class of English as a Second Language students every week and so I know them not only on an academic level, but a personal level. Some say I’m their first Canadian friend.
Economist says federal tuition credits aren’t working
Many families with university or college students get a rare bit of good news around tax time. They find out students are eligible for tuition tax credits worth an average of $2,000 per year that can be transferred to parents in the likely event the student hasn’t made enough money to pay taxes. Students who don’t want to share or whose parents don’t earn much can save them up and get a break on income taxes when they start working full-time. It’s a big break. So big, in fact, that it can amount to between 31 percent and 43 percent off tuition, depending on the province. How many people know they exist before starting school? Surprisingly, no one knows how many.
It almost makes you wonder why the government doesn’t just give students the money before they pay tuition. The C.D. Howe Institute, a non-partisan think tank, wonders about the same thing. Christine Neill, a Wilfrid Laurier University economist, has written a commentary on the $1.6-billion of education tax credits the federal government hands out each year. Amazingly, she says it’s the first real analysis of them, despite various iterations of the credits being around for decades.
Liberals and NDP want to ditch “parental contributions”
Jesse LaPointe is no longer a third-year English major at St. Thomas University. He lives in an apartment in downtown Fredericton, N.B. with his single mother. He worked all summer every summer and almost 30 hours per week during the school year to try to pay for his education. This year, he decided to apply for a student loan to supplement his income so he could cover his tuition. The loan only came to $2,000 which would not even cover half of his $5,195 tuition cost, never mind mandatory fees and living expenses. The reason? LaPointe’s student loan assessment said his mother was required to cough up $4,000.
“She works like a dog… Still, I can’t see any possible reality where she can fork up $4,000,” he says. He was forced to drop out of university in October. He will take a year off to work and try for a loan again next year but, at this point, there’s a lot of uncertainty. “I’ll try my luck,” he says.
Aeroplan miles can be used at UNB and Centennial College
Aeroplan, a Canadian loyalty program, will now allow people to pay university or college tuition using miles collected when they shop at certain retailers, use certain credit cards or fly on Air Canada. The University of New Brunswick and Centennial College are among the first institutions to sign up. Aeroplan miles may be converted at a rate of 35,000 for $250 off one’s own tuition or someone else’s. There’s no limit on conversion. Higher Ed Points, which is behind the program, offers form e-mails students can use to request that friends and family donate their miles.
Salaries and benefits of 60 Canadian university presidents
Students are often amazed at how much university presidents are paid and express indignation at high salaries in student newspapers. Last week, such a piece was printed in the University of Alberta’s Gateway. “With budget cuts choking the university’s finances, it’s frustrating to see public servants paid like CEOs,” wrote Cole Forster.
The obvious arguments in favour of high presidents’ salaries are that they earn them and would otherwise be lured away by competitors. It’s also worth noting theses salaries are taxed at rates as high as 50 per cent (in Nova Scotia).
For comparison’s sake, here is a list of what 60 Canadian university presidents received in pre-tax salaries and benefits in 2011, sourced from the 2013-14 Canadian Association of University Teachers Almanac of Post-secondary Education.
Western University, Amit Chakma: $591,490
University of Calgary, Elizabeth Cannon: $545,000
University of Regina, U of T Mississauga defend spending
Students make a lot of noise about tuition costs but are less vocal about university spending, aside from occasionally blasting administrator salaries. (At McGill, for example, the big news this week was president Suzanne Fortier’s salary: $390,000 plus a potential 20 per cent bonus.)
But a couple of $1-million university entrance sign makeovers—at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and the University of Regina—have caught students’ attention.
The UTM Student Union posted a photo of the school’s massive new stone entrance-way on its Facebook page and asked, “how much do you think the UTM signage on Mississauga Road costs?” The answer: $998,000. More than 80 shared the post. Student Ju Li expressed outrage to The Medium newspaper: “The fact that University of Toronto, a public institution, splurged $1 million on a vanity project is rather outrageous.”
Graduates move back in with parents for good reasons
If someone called me a “yuckie” a few weeks ago, I would scoff at the third-grade insult.
Now, I’ve learned that the term doesn’t relate to cooties or boogers. Rather, it means that I’m steadily draining my parents’ livelihood.
The term, an acronym for “Young Unwittingly Costly Kids,” first rose to popularity in 2010 with a surge of journal articles and academic studies that observed the increasing trend of students moving back in with their parents after university. I, however, only recently came across the word.
Publishers could take legal action: expert
After fees for the semester have been paid and school supplies have been bought, there’s one cost to Canadian university students that can often weigh heavy on their wallets.
The textbooks many have to buy for multiple courses can often cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but some students have found a way to hold on to their cash.
Natalie Fasullo is one of them.
The 19-year-old University of Guelph student only spent $225 on all five of her textbooks, estimating she saved over $775.
Her savings were the result of obtaining four of her textbooks in a way that qualifies as copyright infringement — she downloaded one, bought two as digital copies for $15 and $10 each, and was given another digital copy for free by a friend.
Old Instagram posts emerge after criticism of CFS agendas
When students at the University of Manitoba got their Students’ Union agendas this fall, missing were the pages dedicated to the Canadian Federation of Students and its Manitoba branch, lobbying groups all students at the Winnipeg school pay mandatory fees to each year.
Al Turnbull, UMSU’s new football-playing president, says his executive ripped the CFS material out of every single book by hand as a political protest, “to try and send a message to the national and provincial components [of CFS] that what they’re doing isn’t right.”
Turnbull is angry that, in the final days of previous president Bilan Arte’s term, UMSU contracted with the CFS to produce agendas for $60,000. Not only did Turnbull see that as too high a price but he thought the decision should have been left to the new executive, as it was the year before. He also says it was wrong for Arte to sign because, after losing the UMSU election to him, she ran for and won the chair seat of CFS Manitoba.
Undergraduates paying 3.3% more on average: StatsCan
Tuition fees for Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs are $5,772 on average in 2013/14, up 3.3 per cent from a year earlier, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. That follows a 4.2 per cent increase in 2012/13. Inflation was 1.3 per cent for the year, meaning tuition is growing faster than many other costs. Compulsory fees for undergraduates—which cover things like athletic centres and student unions—increased at an even faster rate, 5.3 per cent, to an average of $817. Tuition fees rose in all but Newfoundland and Alberta, where rates are frozen this year. A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think tank, notes that tuition costs have roughly tripled since 1990.
Here are 2013/14 average undergraduate tuition rates with the percentage change over last year:
Education increasingly viewed as private, not public good
TORONTO – Canadian students hoping for some financial relief on the cost of their post-secondary education are in for a disappointment over the next few years, a prominent think tank suggests.
A report from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives forecasts the inflation-adjusted cost of an undergraduate university degree is expected to climb an average of 8.6 per cent over the next four years, extending a trend that has seen the price tag triple over the past two decades.
The inflation-adjusted cost of tuition and other compulsory fees averaged $2,243 across the country in 1990, the report showed. That figure had climbed to $6,254 for the 2012-13 academic year and is projected to keep rising, the centre said, adding the study focused solely on mandatory costs and did not factor in other financial demands such as books, food and accommodation.
The basic cost of an undergraduate degree in 2016-17 is projected to average $6,842, or slightly more than three times 1990 levels, the report said.
Why mainstream students need to get out and vote
When I attended my first student union meeting at the University of Toronto last February, I knew that many students involved in campus politics are radical leftists so I was unsurprised when those present passed motions endorsing the Aboriginal movement Idle No More and to lobby the provincial government to ban unpaid internships, in which students freely choose to participate.
But when the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) published a statement endorsing Idle No More and sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour calling for a ban on unpaid placements, they claimed to represent 46,000 University of Toronto students and that is simply not true. Many students have no opinion on these issues, while many others, like me, are strongly opposed.
We have no idea how most students actually feel because only 3,161 voted in the last UTSU election, a turnout of less than seven per cent. Munib Sajjad, the president, received around 2,000 votes, which means less than five per cent of students voted for him—despite running unopposed.
Financial planners suggest skipping student residences
TORONTO – Many university students recall the rambunctious pub nights, late-night cram sessions and laundry-strewn dorm rooms of campus life with nostalgic fondness. But this cultural rite of passage can be pricey.
Erin Andrews, 22, said living away from home — including three years in residence and one year in off-campus housing — has added almost $20,000 to her debt load.
But the fourth-year kineseology major at Memorial University in Newfoundland has no regrets.
“It was definitely worth it,” said Andrews, who describes the friends she met in residence as a “super big family.”
“If you like becoming independent and making new friends and want to have the full university experience, I think residence should definitely be included.”
Keep costs down with these 14 money saving tips
University is expensive no matter how you do it but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save money—potentially thousands of dollars per year.
Whether you’ve moved from the other side of the world or are commuting from the other side of the city, here are 14 ways to keep costs down.
1. Get a student bank account.
All the major banks in Canada offer free banking for post-secondary students. At CIBC, for example, students get unlimited transactions for free while non-students might pay $13.95 per month. All you need is proof of enrolment.
2. Buy used textbooks online.
Many universities have websites with postings from students who are offloading last semester’s books at deep discounts. You can make dough selling the books back at the end of the year too.
Student union says it’s standing up for young workers
“How does a bar in the middle of a university in the middle of Newfoundland lose money?,” says Noah Davis-Power. “That is absolutely astounding.”
Last year when Davis-Power was running for a spot on the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union executive, he pushed to see its budget. At first he was first told he couldn’t have it, because he might take it out of context. That’s an argument often used by Canadian student unionists who don’t want their budgets publicly available. Mid-election, MUNSU relented. It turned out the $1.1-million organization, financed mostly by a mandatory $40-a-semester fee, had lost $120,000 that year at The Breezeway, a campus bar it owns. This year it budgeted for a $161,000 loss.
Davis-Power says he expects future losses to be even higher now that MUNSU has decided to boycott Labatt’s beer to show solidarity with about 45 striking brewery workers in St. John’s.
Oregon may drop tuition while the U.K. allows $14,000 fees
In 2012, maximum tuition fees in the United Kingdom nearly tripled to $14,000 per year, about twice the cost of the most expensive undergraduate program in Canada. At the same time, the government made paying back student loans income-contingent, so that those who can’t pay them back don’t have to. Regardless, students demonstrated angrily in the streets.
This week, legislators in Oregon voted to consider another type of income-contingent plan. It’s being pushed by students who are willing to pay for their educations so long as they don’t face big bills up front. It’s being praised—not protested.
Canada does a better job balancing access and quality than many of its peers, but there’s room for improvement. That’s why we should consider the merits of the Oregon plan and the U.K. overhaul.
OECD report shows balance of access and quality
At a conference on media and higher education last week at the University of Toronto, administrators spoke of a “crisis narrative” in the coverage of post-secondary education. They said the media talks of how high tuition is, how governments don’t spend enough and how degrees don’t always lead to jobs. What we don’t report, they said, is how well our schools do.
They have a point. A new 438-page report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), called Education at a Glance 2013, is a reminder that Canada’s schools do a remarkably good job balancing access to education and quality, and prepping grads for jobs.
Costs of convocation should be factored in from the start
A post-secondary education may be the ticket to higher earning potential, but not before your institution bleeds you dry.
After you finished your last assignment, you feel free as you did the first time you coasted down a hill on your bike after getting your training wheels off. Then you apply for convocation and realize that, unless you’ve got over $100 just kickin’ it in the bank, you won’t be crossing any stage.
With the amount of student fees lumped together and tossed at us every September, you’d think the cost of convocation would be covered. Even if someone doesn’t want to cross the stage and rent regalia, my university—and most in Canada—charge students a fee to graduate.
I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised. Distance education students still have to pay gym membership fees. Health insurance is compulsory, too, unless you opt out, and even then you pay upfront and get a refund. What makes convocation any different?