March 19, 2012

Drummond vs. us

Report calls for 5% tuition raise, death of 30% grant

Erin Collins
News Editor

Economist Don Drummond is not popular with students.

In his efforts to balance Ontario’s $16-billion deficit, he recently made thirty suggestions to get post-secondary institutions on board.

Get ready to cry.

Drummond proposes yet another 5% tuition hike and that the recent 30% off tuition rebate be scrapped.

In addition, he suggests that students be forced to complete some four-year programs over the course of three full years.

On average, Ontario students pay the highest tuition fees in the country. Many depend on four months of income in the summer to pay for school and living costs.

Drummond claims that if his recommendations are not followed, the province will be saddled with a $30-billion deficit in five years.

LUSU President Mike Snoddon believes the report to be grossly misguided.

“Sure, if you cut a bunch of programs you’re going to see a balance.” He adds that a raise in corporate taxes, which Drummond seems determined to dodge, would fix a lot of existing problems.

“We have an economist who doesn’t understand the sector at all, then saying in his report, ‘This is what’s best for students.’ But if he hasn’t spoken with students, who did he talk to?”

According to Snoddon, Drummond failed to consult with anyone other than the President of Laurentian University, who incidentally sat on Drummond’s committee.

What does the report bode for Lakehead?

The province has given universities the go-ahead for the 5% hike, but the university’s Board of Governors has yet to make a decision. Snoddon is already trying to dissuade them from increasing tuition by the full 5%, which he says would be highly problematic.

“With the approval of the 5% increase this year, [the Liberals] have surpassed any Ontario government with tuition increases during their tenure. They’re now worse than Ernie Eves and Mike Harris and they’re also worse than Bob Rae. That’s pretty scary.”

Ontario’s tuition fees are rapidly approaching a 100% increase since 2006. Fees are already 71% higher than they were six years ago.

Snoddon expressed his concern that the vote on the tuition increase will be made after exams, when many students will have left the campus. As well, the student voice on the Board of Governors, as well as being silenced on tuition matters, recently suffered a trimming. In an effort to make the Board “more efficient,” the number of seats was reduced by 12. Two of these positions were occupied by students. There is now one student on the Board of Governors.

Snoddon questions whether the Board would have needed to open up the University Act to change their composition. “They seem to tell me no, but I have another inclination.” He adds, “I’ll be looking into that.”

The LUSU President would like to see cooperation and stronger ties between the Lakehead Board and students. In a recent presentation he made to the Governors, he pressed for a resolution by which they would agree to only raise tuition fees as a last resort after consulting with students.

He would also like to see students included in the decision-making. “They’re having conversations right now about tuition ­– why aren’t we at that table?”

And even if they fail to incorporate the student voice, Snoddon says that administrators should be honest with the student body.

“It’s important that they let us know that they know – I think there’s this fear for administration to admit students are in a bad spot and that the quality of education could be better. The political game has gone too far and now a lot of people are suffering.”

Photo by Gary Musson/ARGUS

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