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Campus Bulletin

September 16, 2002

U of G responds to report by Millennium Foundation

The Millennium Scholarship Foundation today released a report, The Price of Knowledge: Access and Student Finance in Canada, that addresses, among other things, increasing tuition costs and enrolment at Canada’s post-secondary institutions.

Universities were not supplied with advance copies of the report, so it is difficult to comment in detail, says Maureen Mancuso, associate vice-president (academic), who chairs the University’s Enrolment Management Committee and oversees the Office of Registrarial Services. However, some details and figures in the report were released, allowing Mancuso to provide information specific to U of G in a few key areas.

“While I have not seen the report in its entirety, it does appear to dispel some myths about access to higher education,” she says. The report says that while tuition has steadily increased for the past decade, enrolment numbers have not been affected. It states that universities with lower tuition are not making up the difference by increasing ancillary and non-compulsary fees, and that a proportion of the ancillary fees are student-initiated. The report also says that students need and are receiving more financial assistance than ever before.

“At Guelph, we have long recognized the challenges facing our students, such as rising tuition fees and the need for more student aid,” Mancuso says. “Historically, our enrolment planning has included not deregulating tuition fees and limiting non-mandatory fees for this very reason. We have also made significant efforts to restore student grants (bursaries), provide more needs-based aid and increase employment opportunities for our students. We have deliberately worked to keep down the cost of living on campus, making our housing and meal plan programs among the least expensive in Ontario, compared to peer institutions.”

The report says that tuition has increased by about 76 per cent nationwide in the last decade. At Guelph, tuition has increased at about the reported average, despite what has happened in the rest of Ontario. Currently, tuition for a U of G arts/science undergraduate student is about $4,100 a year. "It should also be recognized that with any incremental tuition fee increase, 30 per cent of the amount is set aside for student assistance,” Mancuso says. “As such, this increase has been matched by a 300 per cent increase in student financial aid, with some 58 per cent of that aid being needs-based, compared to 5 per cent a decade ago.”

In total, the amount of money the University spends on student assistance has increased to some $15.8 million. More than 50 per cent of entering students received financial support in 2002/2003 and a significant number of in-course students received continuing awards. “We plan to continue to work to increase the number of awards and scholarships available to our students through our ongoing budget process, locally-administered student aid initiatives, and fund raising activities,” Mancuso says. “There are also more than 3,500 student jobs on campus, which provide some $25 million in employment-related payments to students annually.”

In addition, while the report says that nationwide, students are paying thousands of dollars in fees for professional programs, the situation at U of G is very different, Mancuso says. "For a number of years, we have been mindful of making sure that the gap between professional and non-professional programs is not substantial, even though we have the discretion to charge higher fees in these areas. It is likely that this is one of the main reasons why tuition fees at U of G have increased at a slower rate than at other Ontario universities.”

The report also says that rising tuition is not affecting enrolment, a fact that holds true at U of G, according to Mancuso. The number of first-choice applications to Guelph have increased more than 17 per cent since the mid-1990s. “We have increased our undergraduate enrolment by some 22 per cent and graduate enrolment by about 9 per cent in part to respond to this increase in demand,” she says.

“We take the issues that are raised in this report very seriously and have made a significant effort at U of G to address matters such as increasing tuition, accessibility, and needs-based student assistance. We look forward to studying the report in detail and using it -- along with other reports – in our planning process as we look for ways to deal with the changes and challenges facing post-secondary education.”

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