Voices raised on tuition raze

A person wearing a purple sweater and jeans has reached their left hand into the left pants pocket, pulling it out to show viewers they have nothing in their pocket. The “Carillon on the move” article series logo is included in the bottom-right corner.
You may be feeling the loss (financially, of course), but you don’t need to feel at a loss when there are people working to minimize harm. csamhaber via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

While increased tuition and budget cuts abound, staff and students present alternate solutions 

A news release on the University of Regina’s 2023-24 budget was made public on April 28, 2023, and explained that most tuition and fees for postsecondary students would be increasing by four per cent – the highest amount the university is currently permitted to raise these costs by – in the coming fall 2023 semester. 

This release followed the announcement that a five per cent reduction in budgets across nearly all university units would be expected alongside other penny-pinching measures the university is attempting, including encouraging staff into early retirement and reducing the amount of staff positions.  

In an article for the Carillon published on April 6, 2023, news writer Josh King interviewed Britt Hall, President of the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) on the announced cuts. Hall encouraged students to stay up-to-date on and involved with the budget for many reasons, but explained why undercompensated and overworked faculty should be a concern to students: “…our [faculty’s] working conditions are your learning conditions.”  

King also noted in his April 2023 article that in the 2009-10 academic year, the university received just over 60 per cent of its funding from the provincial government. Now, just over a decade later, the university will be getting less than 50 per cent of its funding from the province, and has been making up the difference with steady tuition increases for years.  

Tuition has risen drastically at the U of R. The average domestic undergraduate student taking five courses in the fall 2023 semester will be charged $4,595.06 in tuition fees, whereas that same course load for that same student in the winter 2018 semester was only $3,721.38. The price for one full semester has increased nearly $1,000 in just over five years, and seeing as most undergraduate degrees require at least eight full semesters, students now will be paying roughly $8,000 more for their degrees than students half-a-decade ago were charged.  

While tuition hasn’t risen quite as drastically for international students, they are charged exceedingly more than domestic students for access to the same services and resources. In the winter 2019 semester an average international undergraduate student taking five courses would’ve been charged $10,822.76; a domestic student with the same load would have paid $3,560. The average international undergraduate student who takes a full-time load of five courses in the fall 2023 semester will have to pay $11,597.56.  

International students will pay roughly $7,000 more than domestic students for a full course load in one semester. The university reported that international student enrollment rose by 17 per cent between 2021-22 and 2022-23 which will doubtlessly make a dent in their multi-million dollar deficit. However, there is some debate as to whether the university should be looking to line their pockets by dipping into the pockets of students.  

Aarchee Patel, an international undergraduate student studying biology, said that tuition rates here are comparable to other Canadian universities. ”I think it’s fine if we compare it to other universities, so I think it’s a decent price.” At the same time, first-year international student Letícia Toledo expressed frustration, explaining that she works three jobs on top of her full course load to make ends meet. As to her education, Toledo said ”It’s good, but sometimes I feel some regret because of the price.” 

“I’m sorry to say, but it’s criminal what they do with us.” Toledo continued, referencing the university’s tuition rates for international students. “In my English 100 class I talked with some classmates and they always say it’s something really criminally unfair for us.” When asked what she might do if tuition continues to increase, the first-year student stated: “We pay too much for just a piece of paper. If they increase [tuition] more, I don’t know if I’m going to stay here.” 

While the current environment may seem bleak, we are not out of options. URFA president Hall shared a message with URFA members on May 10, 2023, and while very real concerns were noted, care was also taken to point out ways to address these concerns. “We have been call­ing on the provin­cial gov­ern­ment for months to step up and pro­vide the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na with the increase in fund­ing need­ed to pre­vent cuts, job loss­es, and tuition fee increas­es.” Hall commented. “As a pub­licly fund­ed insti­tu­tion, it is our government’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to ensure that the uni­ver­si­ty has the fund­ing it needs to pro­vide a fair work­ing envi­ron­ment for fac­ul­ty and staff, and an enrich­ing learn­ing envi­ron­ment for students.” Hall later recommends contacting the Minister of Advanced Education (minister.ae@gov.sk) and as well as MLAs to raise awareness and demand change. 

  Members of the University Employees Union – CUPE 5791 – are also hard at work alerting fellow members and non-members to the reality of the university’s situation, and relaying demands to ensure the university operates in the best interests of those employed through it and those it serves. A petition to the university’s president has been circulating in recent weeks that, at the time of writing, contains 201 signatures ranging from current students, alumni, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, sessionals, and previous employees, as well as staff at RPIRG and the University of Regina Press.  

The petition’s preamble explains that the university has been subsidizing the lack of funding from the provincial government by depending more and more heavily on tuition funds and high enrollment, and questions why the university has not yet pushed heavily for an increase in provincial funding. “This gap is being filled by tuition increases, making university education less affordable and accessible for residents. International and domestic students are unfairly shouldering this burden. Staff are being laid off, positions are being cut or consolidated. The quality of education at the U of R is in jeopardy.” 

There are six demands listed at the petition’s end. Emergency government funding must be sought out, a plan to sustain domestic student enrollment with lowered tuition rates is required, and the province should be worked with to ensure the success and fair treatment of international students. In addition, the administration must ensure the university receives the funding necessary to be considered a desirable place of employment, must put effort into retaining skilled staff rather than pressuring them to leave the institution, and must work in tandem with the campus community to maintain the university’s academic mission. 

Perhaps the sign-off message taken directly from the petition says it best: “We, the undersigned clean the University’s floors, teach, manage research programs, attend the institution as students, provide important academic advice, heat the buildings, and deliver important support services that keep the university on track. We worry that the U of R leadership is doing little to advance the mission of our institution by avoiding tough conversations with the provincial government. The U of R deserves better.” 


Comments are closed.