Student unions react to tuition hikes at University of Ottawa
JUL 09, 2013 | BY SHABNAM OLGA NASIMI
The University of Ottawa has announced that it will increase tuition fees for both its Canadian and international students, further increasing the cost of living for University of Ottawa students, come September.
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and the Graduate Student Association (GSAÉD) argue that these hikes are unacceptable considering the university has a budget surplus and has continued to raise tuition above inflationary levels since 2007. There will be a rise in tuition of three per cent, five per cent, and ten per cent for full-time undergraduate, graduate, and international students, respectively.
“The University of Ottawa has accumulated roughly $125 million in budget surplus since 2010,” said Seamus Wolfe, External Commissioner of the GSAÉD, in an open letter following the Board of Governors decision to raise tuition on June 18. “This increase is not only unnecessary, but continues to dangerously burden students who are already struggling to cover the cost of their education, books, rent, and groceries.”
The unions also point to the increased attendance at the campus food bank as a sign that tuition increases are coming at a cost to the well-being of students. The campus food bank has gone from serving 259 to approximately 3,300 students per year between 2007 and 2012, and was the second most visited food bank in the Ottawa area despite catering only to students.
“It really just comes down to students not being able to manage all of the financial requirements that they have,” said Anne-Marie Roy, President of the SFUO. “So by the time you pay tuition fees and then incorporate rent, food often gets put to the bottom of the list, or worse, they purchase things that are not as healthy, so really their food security is at risk.”
The SFUO food bank already services approximately 8.1 per cent of the University of Ottawa’s undergraduate and graduate population.
The Ontario government has announced that for the next four years, undergraduate tuition will see a three per cent increase per year while graduate tuition will see a five per cent per year increase. Ontario already has the highest average undergraduate tuition fee rate in the country.
The U of O tuition hikes have been met with opposition since they were first proposed. In late May, the unions staged a protest of approximately 75 students and shut down a board of governors meeting, when they were set to vote on the increases. Since then, the board has “avoided debate and ignored proposed amendments,” according to the unions’ letter.
The university has defended the increases by saying they are necessary due to cuts in provincial funding. As it currently stands, despite cries from the unions, tuition fees will rise come September. The proposed increases are completely in line with the provincial tuition framework laid out in April.
- Subtitle: Increased living costs contribute to rise in food bank usage, they say