Lots of talk, little difference

An attentive audience of students and curious onlookers listened to a panel discuss the merits of differential tuition on Mon., Mar. 3. Speakers at the noon-hour forum, hosted by the Students’ Union as a part of their 2003 tuition fight, adamantly opposed the university’s plans to charge students of some faculties more than others.

“A university education is not just classroom time,” said Social Work faculty member Ron Collins. “It includes discussions and interactions outside of class. Students cannot fully enjoy their experience working off a heavy debt load.”

Collins, who advocates a free tuition policy, said the socioeconomic makeup of the university population will change if differential tuition is adopted.

“There will be an elite becoming doctors, management, etc. if we allow differential tuition to go through,” he said. “If tuition goes up, we will have a whole new makeup of students going to the university.”

Communication and Culture professor Ron Glasberg agreed that accessibility to post-secondary education should be considered when discussing differential tuition.

“It’s a bad idea to sacrifice future generations to tuition but it’s a good idea to sacrifice you?” he asked rhetorically. “Students after the current generation will be sacrificed not for the present debt but for future debt. That’s a stupid reason.”

Glasberg criticized the university for considering a tuition increase to cover the university’s increasing costs and debt. He stated that students should be able to learn without worrying about a heavy debt load.

“There is a horrendous pressure on faculty and students to get through as much as possible,” said Glasberg. “If you don’t have time because you’re working but want to be able to learn and you can’t, that’s immoral. Tuition should be immoral as well.”

Faculty of Science professor Anthony Russell believes that tuition should not be increased in some faculties to pay for expenses in others.

“One of the main problems with differential tuition is that a small amount charged in differential tuition will go toward other programs that can’t afford it,” said Russell. “To actually put loading of paying for a program on other students is immoral.”

Russell also expressed concerns about the quality of education if the university enacts differential tuition.

“Every student here deserves to have the best instructors they can involved in their program,” said Russell. “What happens to those students not in differential tuition programs. How will the university regard them?”

Faculty of Communication and Culture student representative Laura Schultz shared Russell’s concerns about quality.

“There’s no evidence that quality of education in non-differentiated faculties will deteriorate,” said Schultz. “But the lack of prestige in non-differentiated faculties will have will impact on how those faculties are perceived within the university and outside the university as well.”

Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh noted that some measures of quality may decline with tuition differentiation.

“Our experience in the past is that increased cost does not correlate with increases in quality,” said Stambaugh. “Faculty-to-student ratios are better here than in differentiated programs in Ontario.”

At least one audience member was dissatisfied with the Wednesday edition of the forum.

“I’ve heard four different people speak against of differential tuition. How can they [the SU] justify putting this on as a forum?” asked the anonymous student.

One panelist at the Wednesday forum, professor Jennifer Koshan, opposes differential tuition but understands one financial justification for its implementation.

“If we don’t implement differential tuition, cuts that we have been talking about in the faculty will be implemented,” she said. “Given that some faculties will be able to offset cuts with differential tuition and others will not, it’s unfair.”

According to Stambaugh, faculty members attending the forum were self-selected and their views were not screened prior to the forum. He also stated that administration officials, who support differential tuition, declined to participate in the Faculty Perspectives on Differential Tuition forum.

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