Visual credit: Dawson Couture
Article written by Dawson Couture – Journalist
On May 30, the University of Ottawa Students Union (UOSU) revealed that the University of Ottawa (U of O) Board of Governors is working to increase tuition fees for students from outside Ontario. The new U of O scale would increase tuition fees for non-Ontario resident students by five percent, international students by five point five percent, and newly admitted foreigners by seven percent.
During the press conference, UOSU President Armaan Singh denounced the stagnation in provincial funding for post-secondary education as the main source of the increases. Singh considers it unfair that “the University balances its budgets on the backs of the students”.
After hearing suspicions of an increase in tuition, the UOSU began a letter-writing campaign on May 18 addressed to the U of O president and dean. Despite letters from more than 4,700 students opposing the proposal, Singh points out that the management still refuses to address their concerns.
According to him, the dean, Jill Scott, preferred to invite him and his colleague and UOSU commissioner of law, Chelsey-Lynn Rousselle, to a private meeting on May 26. It was at that meeting, he adds, that the dean announced that an increase in tuition would be part of the next budget proposal. Despite its challenges, the Board of Governors presented the new budget with rate hikes on May 30th.
The province announced on March 23 that would prolong the frost tuition fees for Ontario students for the 2022-2023 academic year. Rousselle suggests, however, that the U of O seek to fully explore the provincial government’s guidelines for international students. According to them, this allows post-secondary institutions to increase fees for non-Ontario Canadian students by five percent and for international students by an unlimited amount.
AU of O is following the lead of the University of Toronto and the University of Trent, which on March 31 announced a two to three percent tuition increase, despite student objections. For Singh, this is indicative of a systemic problem caused by the neglect of the post-secondary sector and students.
A disproportionate impact
The U of O decision is even more shocking for Singh, considering the budget surplus of $41.7 million that accrued for the 2020-2021 academic year. The open letter confirms that before the pandemic, 54% of Canadian undergraduates were already in debt of around $28,000 after graduation.
While acknowledging the universal effect of these increases, Rousselle raised the uneven impact on francophone students at the U of O. In 2020-2021, 5,800 Quebec students attended the U of O, not to mention the hundreds of French-speaking Canadians and non-Canadians on campus.
They highlight the hypocrisy of the administration, which claims to be pro-Francophone but has already increased tuition for international French-speaking students by 10% last year. As a proud Akkadian and out-of-province student, the Advocacy Commissioner expresses his utter disappointment: “I chose U of O because of its devotion to bilingualism. This marks a new attack on Francophonie in Ontario. »
Singh adds that the fee increases affect more disadvantaged and racialized populations on campus. During his speech, he said that the U of O was going in the wrong direction by raising barriers to education, especially for indigenous students.
Singh notes that the rate increase will cause a growing student debt and will force many students to drop out or choose another school. The latter may not be a valid option for many Francophones, Rousselle points out, due to the limited choice of post-secondary institutions available to them in Ontario.
unity is strength
After several challenges exactly one year ago, U of O had to abandon a proposal which would have increased tuition fees for out-of-province students by three percent. Singh again hopes that pressure from the student body, in the form of a letter campaign and an open letter to the president and president of the U of O, can have a similar impact.
The lack of consultation and funding from the U of O and the province galvanized dozens of actors to support the UOSU’s #uODitNon campaign. During the press conference, U of O Teachers Association President Susan Spronk and U of O Part-time Teachers Association President Luc Angers affirmed their unwavering support for students Singh adds that more than 20 student associations, five university committee associations and more than 20 elected students signed its open letter.
Complementing the letter, Singh and his team are defending the democratic power that Ontario students wield in the June 2 provincial election. As for the lack of funding, notes the chairman of the SEUO, “we have to vote for candidates and parties that will work for us”. Liberal MPP Lucille Collard and New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Lyra Evans attended the conference to reiterate their solidarity with the UOSU and the more than 38,000 undergraduate students it represents.