Nunc Scio
Thursday, February 10, 2005
  Did Bob Rae's Report Call For Higher Tuition Fees?
In response to a comment on an earlier post, I've decided to take a crack at this question.

The short answer is no.

Nowhere in the Rae Report is there a call for higher fees. What's all the fuss about, then?

Well, certain groups have seized upon several unfortunate ambiguities in the report as clear evidence of a conspiracy to hike fees. While heresay and conjecture are indeed kinds of evidence, let's look at this thing factually.

1) At several points, Rae jigs a financial aid threshold at $6000 for low-income grants and tuition loans. "My god!" some hysterics say, "That's a 20 per cent increase from the current average tuition level of $4,960! Vive le revolucion!". Not so, friends, not so. While average tuition is indeed only $4,960, ancillary fees in the province are $681. That's $5641 in actual fees. Rae has included both these costs in his calculations. So, a $6,000 grant or tuition loan will actually cover your costs, while only providing room for a 6 per cent tuition increase. And again, Rae doesn't ever ask for this. I should also point out that many students in the province pay much more than $4960 for tuition, like those in law, medicing or dentistry. So if Rae really wants tuition at $6,000, then fees for these folks will actually go down by between 66 and 133 per cent. I don't want to confuse some people with the facts here, but if they're going to play fast and loose with the truth, then they're in for a surprise.

2) Rae's paper does unfortunately ask for institutional autonomy in setting fees. This is a bad idea. However, in Rae's defense, he asks that before this happens, the province inject at least $1.3 Billion into the system. This would take a lot of the pressure of institutions to hike fees, and they would have a hard time justifying one in the face of such a huge investment. At any rate, deregulation, in any form should be actively opposed by students and their representatives.

3) Finally, a word about demonization. Some folks like to present universities and Bob Rae as fundamentally evil beings who have some draconian agenda to screw students. This is kids stuff. To devolve the debate into this kind of G.W.Bushian "you're with us or you're with the evildoers" kind of mentality is to do everyone in the province a disservice. We need to approach universities and politicians with ideas, not rhetoric.

The challenge before students is to take what's good out of Bob Rae's report (low-income grants, financial aid overhaul and increased public investment) and fuse it with a picture of what's good for students: regulated tuition, no tuition increases and accessible, high-quality institutions.
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Jack of all trades, master of none, Graeme is many things to many people. Unfortunately, none of them find him very life-affirming in any capacity. He is a freelance writer, broadcaster, amateur cryptozoologist and occasional political commentator late of London, England and now based in Toronto. Most of the time, he's confused. And a little hungry. But mostly just confused and somewhat uncomfortable writing in the third person.

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