Flat fees in full effect at St. George

Students admitted to the Faculty of Arts and Science at U of T’s St. George campus in 2009 or later who are taking more than three credits are now required to pay a flat program fee rather than for individual courses, as they have in the past. Those who have been admit- ted before 2009 will be exempt from the flat fee implementation until the end of the 2013-2014 year.

For the past two years, the threshold for the flat fee has been four credits, not three. This change was approved as part of program framework on May 20, 2009 and thus did not get its own vote, much to the chagrin of many organized student groups, who criticize the policy partly because they say it discriminates against low-income students.

The Stop Flat Fees campaign, organized by UTSU and ASSU, had collected approximately 4,000 sig- natures on petition cards prior to discovering that there would be no vote. U of T officials have said they are not sure where the confusion over the vote arose.

According to the Program Fee Monitoring Report released by Governing Council on May 6, 2011, the Program Fee Model provides universities with “a more predictable and sustainable revenue stream”, which is “essential to enable universities to invest in a quality academic experience for students.”

The resolution also calls for a revision of the flat fee structure based on a preliminary evaluation of the model’s impact in 2011. However, the Program Fee Monitoring Committee concluded in its report that “most of the concerns expressed in the discussions leading up to the policy being approved have not materialized.”

The committee, which was comprised of 10 members, including three students, looked at the impact of the model, during the one and a half years it has been in effect, on students’ academic performance, their involvement in extra-curricular activities, whether the number of completed courses had changed and, of course, the main criticisms of the model. Students have raised concerns that the final report only looked at one and a half cohorts and the overall reliability of the focus groups, but some U of T officials, including Meric Gertier, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, have defended the committee’s work, saying, “None of these people had a vested interest in one set of findings or another… They have investigated all of the questions that were top-of-mind during the debate and they have reported in a pretty clear, fair, and unbiased way.”

Provost Cheryl Misak, U of T’s chief academic officer, says, “In some way, yes: there is a vote. The facts are looked at by the report of the Program Fee Monitoring Committee and they’re discussed, and if the facts required revision then there would have been a revision; but the facts were really, really straightforward.”

Opponents of the model have stated their intentions to continue lobbying against it, although their campaign tactics, they say, will have to change in order to get the best results for their efforts. Some groups have even tried campaigning at the provincial level; however, a spokes- person for John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, defended the model because of its potential as a more predictable source of revenue for the university—just as long as the outcome was in agreement with provincial policy, universities have the ability and freedom to set their own tuition fees.

The new model is expected to generate $9.5 million in additional revenue when fully implemented.

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