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University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, January 6, 1999

  • Tuition fee issues are explained
  • National talk on student loans
  • Appendix surgery postpones play
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Tuition fee issues are explained

UW should try to move toward a policy of multi-year tuition fee announcements in order to provide more information to students about the long-term costs of their education, says the provost's task force on tuition fees and student financial support, which presented its report this week.

Payroll deadline

The deadline for getting paperwork to Human Resources for employees paid monthly "has been moved up to January 11, rather than the 14th", says a memo from Sandie Hurlburt in the HR department. That applies to "staff, faculty, temporary employees, co-op students, and graduate students". Payday this month is Friday, January 22, a week earlier than the normally scheduled date.
It'll be on the agenda for discussion by the UW senate on January 18, and later goes to the board of governors. But neither body will vote on any recommendations. As its name suggests, the task force -- which included students, faculty members, staff and administrators -- was asked to advise the provost about fee and student aid policy. Its report also provides an overview of fee and aid issues for the campus at large. The task force was chaired by Gary Waller, associate provost (academic and student affairs).

As government support for higher education declines and tuition fees rise, it says, students are demanding to know in advance how much their degree will cost and what kind of financial support they can expect over the three to five years it may take to complete a program. But universities can't accurately forecast the future of inflation or government funding.

Says the report: "An essential dilemma is that the University needs to have the flexibility to collect sufficient funds to support quality programs, and the students need quality programs that are affordable and are available at a known price." These conflicting needs are being played out in an environment in which Ontario universities now have "the lowest per capita government funding in Canada," and in which "the number of faculty and staff at the University of Waterloo has been reduced significantly as a partial solution, without any corresponding reduction in numbers of students served."

Because "government announcements about grants tend to be made very late, even after the start of a new fiscal year," UW currently makes fee decisions each winter for the following September, with all students in a given program paying the same fees. "This current approach gives the University flexibility to set fees within government guidelines on an annual basis; students are uncertain and legitimately concerned about the levels of tuition they might be expected to pay in future years. Students over the last few years have seen tuition increases of 20%, 10%, 10% and 10%. In the same period the university has seen its operating budget drop significantly."

The task force looked at a system adopted by the University of Toronto in which maximum tuition increases are stated over at least three years. Under this "cap" system, the task force notes, "On the one hand, students know the maximum amount that tuition can be in any given year, given that they finish within the normal program time limit. The University knows the maximum that it can increase tuition and therefore the maximum tuition income for an extended period. On the other hand, the University assumes an unknown level of risk by setting limits on future income."

The task force shows great interest in a modified form of the "cap" system that would pay separate attention to three kinds of fee increase:

"This approach is not without difficulty," the task force notes. "The distinction between maintenance expenses (maintaining the status quo) and discretionary expenses (making things better) is not always an easy one. Deciding on the cap for discretionary increases will be difficult. Also, it is not immediately obvious which of a variety of inflation measures is appropriate."

As for student aid, the task force says that "qualified students should not be denied access to, or the opportunity to complete a university education for financial reasons," but stops short of suggesting that the university guarantee that right, since "unmet financial needs" are subject to varying definitions.

Says the report: "The current University process for determining financial need is adequate and should be applied to all students in all programs and at all levels within the rules established by government. Government processes are not adequate. . . . As tuition continues to increase, scholarship support will become increasingly less dominant as compared to support based on need. Nevertheless, the University should aggressively seek funds to increase the pool of money for merit-based awards."

The issue of financial aid for international students and the problem of "how best to use available funds if they are not sufficient to meet all the financial needs of all students" need more discussion, according the report.

Finally, the task force views differentiation of tuition fees across programs as inevitable, but warns that the university should approach its implementation "gradually and with caution. . . . There can be differences in fees among programs, but differentiation does not occur until the differences get larger than some undefined amount. There is no agreement on what the criterion should be." It does say that "If fees are to be differentiated, there should be a link between cost and price. . . . Fees for a particular program should be competitive with fees for programs of similar quality at other institutions. . . . The university should be cautious that students in one program do not heavily subsidize the cost of other programs."

On one sensitive point, it says that "There was no consensus on whether potential future earnings should be a major factor in setting fees. . . . The general argument against is that it is not possible to predict an individual's income."

National talk on student loans

The politics of student aid at the national level don't get any simpler, though the main features are clear enough: students and universities want more money put into student aid, while the banks that provide the loans don't want to lose their money. Here's the latest, excerpted from a news release issued by the Canadian Association of University Teachers on December 14:

"After fielding intense opposition from organizations representing students, faculty, university and college administrators, people with disabilities, and student financial aid administrators, Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) has backed down from its plans to impose a new policy to restrict access to student loans.

"The policy plan, discussed at the December 10th and 11th National Stakeholders' Working Session on student financial assistance, is referred to by HRDC as "institutional designation". It would give banks the right to deny student loans to students attending institutions where historical "default rates" are above a certain threshold. HRDC has not disclosed whether it had planned that the policy would differentiate between public and private educational institutions, despite admissions by HRDC that the problem of high default rates is concentrated in private sector institutions and programs.

"'The proposal on designation will primarily benefit the banks,' says Elizabeth Carlyle, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. 'Federal and provincial governments must stop pandering to the banks' desire to profit from rising tuition and high student debt loads. HRDC has a responsibility to maintain the student financial assistance program as a tool to improve access, not to funnel more public money to the big banks.'

"A joint letter issued by nine organizations representing the post-secondary education community, including the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), criticized federal and provincial governments for failing to consult with major stakeholders on the issue of designation.

"The proposal on designation comes on the heels of other unpopular measures to restrict access to student loans, including credit history checks on student loans applicants. The Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and other groups, oppose any new restrictions on access to student loans, and will continue to collaborate in opposing a designation policy for public universities and colleges.

"'HRDC has no mandate to proceed with its proposals on designation,' adds Jim Turk, Executive Director of the CAUT. 'Neither the banks nor HRDC have released the detailed financial data necessary for a meaningful review of student aid. Only when we get such data can there be a proper consultation.'

"In response to pressure from students, faculty, and administrators, representatives of HRDC at the Stakeholders' meeting made a verbal commitment to a six-month consultation period to consider the issue of designation and to seek recommendations. HRDC hopes to be able to incorporate a designation policy into negotiations on Canada Student Loan Program risk-sharing agreements with financial institutions. The agreements run out on July 31, 2000, with negotiations set to begin during the summer of 1999."

Appendix surgery postpones play

If you were planning to see "Fool for Love" in the studio theatre, starting January 27, think again. The drama department has postponed its first show of 1999, "due to the recent appendectomy of the leading actor", drama head Bill Chesney said yesterday. "Thus, the run will now be February 3-6 and 10-13."

Third-year drama student Chris Goddard, who plays Eddie, "was rushed from his home in Lucan, Ontario, north of London at 2 a.m. on January 3 (through the raging snow storm we're all still enjoying hearing about) to the University Hospital in London," Chesney says. "The sizzling appendix was removed at 11:30 a.m. that morning. He should get out of hospital sometime today. As the role of the tempestuous, hard-drinkin' and lovin' Eddie is quite physical, the department took the unprecedented (in Prof. Chadwick's memory anyway) move of postponing our opening by a week. Besides, the poster hadn't yet been printed, so it could be altered easily. Just to be on the safe side, his twin brother Brad (also year 3 honours drama) is understudying, but student director Catherine Seeback, fellow cast members Trisha Lanc, Gary Rush, Mish Boutet and the department are confident that Chris will be up to lariat-twirlin' snuff by opening on February 3."

"Fool for Love" is a play by Sam Shepard. Official description:

In a seedy, stripped-down motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Eddie and May battle through the latest (and final) round in their tumultuous fifteen-year relationship. The Old Man watches as they construct competing versions of their obsessive, deadlocked love story. Is he dreaming them? Are they dreaming him? A theatrical spectacle of juxtaposed realities, Fool for Love builds to a powerful finale as Eddie and May purge themselves of their inherited obsessions and of the undying grip of the old man's memory.
Says Chesney: "People already holding tickets for the cancelled dates have been or are being contacted by the Theatre Centre box office; if they are uncertain, they can call ext. 4908 (the box office) or ext. 5808 (drama department)."

Next in the drama season will be "Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)", March 24-27 in the Theatre of the Arts. Auditions for that show are being held tonight and tomorrow starting at 4 p.m. in Modern Languages room 135. "Please arrive at 4 p.m. Audition times will then be assigned. Please bring a pencil, your class schedule and your datebook," an announcement says. "Wear comfortable clothes."


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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