“Flat Fees”: Another Attack on Working Class Students

M. Cook – BASICS #17 Student Edition (Jan/Feb 2010)

UofT Students protest May 2009 as the Governing Council approves the flat
fees motion. Protestors were turned away from the meeting by Campus Police.
(Photo: Matthew Filipowich/The Medium).

In May 2009, the University of Toronto Governing Council passed a resolution to implement flat fees for incoming students. As of September 2009, first year Arts and Science students taking four courses or more are forced to pay full tuition. In September 2010, first and second year students taking three courses or more will be forced to pay full tuition.

Thus, instead of being charged $1,000 per full-year course taken, full-time Arts and Science students will be forced to pay $5,000 per year, in addition to other fees.

The introduction of flat fees will make post-secondary studies inaccessible to a larger number of students. Nearly 70% of all full-time Arts and Science students currently take less than a full five-course load. Students often take fewer courses to work part-time jobs to support themselves and finance their education. For students taking 3 courses, flat fees will represent a 66% tuition increase.

Flat fees is yet another attack on students and our right to education. On campuses across Canada tuition fees have been steadily increasing and more and more classes are taught by contract faculty. Meanwhile, the Faculty of Arts and Science continues to cut/underfund critical interdisciplinary programs, including crucial area studies.

There were attempts at resisting flat fees before it was implemented. In late February 2009, students quickly developed a broad coalition to stop flat fees. The coalition included UTSU, various college councils, ASSU, students from OPIRG, faculty members from Arts and Science, and alumni among others.

The coalition first attempted to lobby against flat fees.  They developed materials and attempted to reach out to students, and also sent letters to the faculty to gain their support. Certain alumni threatened to revoke their funding to the university. Both on-campus and off-campus press criticized the flat fee proposal.

The coalition filed an injunction against the University for breaking its own rules in pushing forward the proposal. The Program Fee Implementation Committee had decided against introducing flat fees. However, Professor Scott Mabury, the chair of the committee overruled the decision and he was later promoted to Vice-Provost of Academic Operations.

Despite the lobbying attempts, the university moved forward with its proposal. A group of students from the coalition lost hope in the lobbying approach and started to focus on organizing rallies. The group faced challenges in organizing mass support due to the lack of time and the fact that the university altered their proposal so that only incoming students—and not current students—would be affected.

While the coalition did not succeed in preventing the implementation of flat fees, the University has stated that they will review flat fees in 2011. The review is the place where students should unite to make an intervention, but we will need to mobilize mass support to have our say.

We want to know how flat fees have affected you. Send us an email at basicsuoft@gmail.com.