Queen’s University proposes that the province end the tuition freeze to make up for the university’s deficits, but students think otherwise.
Queen’s submitted its recommendations in May to the Blue-Ribbon Panel, a short-term advisory body to the Minister of Colleges and Universities proposing recommendations to improve the financial sustainability of the postsecondary education sector in Ontario.
The panel, launched in March, is composed of leaders in business and academic fields. Past Queen’s Provost Alan Harrison is the chair.
Both Queen’s and the Blue-Ribbon Panel denied The Journal’s request for comment, as they wait for the report to be published. The panel will publish its recommendations this fall, having already submitted its findings to the Ministry, according to the Globe and Mail.
Queen’s University’s submission focused on ending the ongoing tuition freeze. The tuition freeze has cost Queen’s $180 million in foregone revenue from undergraduate and graduate tuition since 2019. Queen’s is pressing for a long-term flexible tuition framework instead. This framework would allow for Queen’s to increase tuition annually to account for inflation.
SGPS Vice-President (Community) Tony Hu told The Journal he’s disappointed the University is pushing for a flexible tuition framework as opposed to supporting the ongoing tuition freeze.
“I would argue more students are benefited from the tuition freeze because it means students themselves are paying less [and] are exploited less to fund the University’s operating revenue,” Hu said. “I see this idea of flexible tuition framework as really challenging students and maybe putting more of the burden for funding the operating budget on students.”
Queen’s highlighted the financial pressure the University is facing in its submission, projecting a $62.8 million operating deficit for the 2023-24 academic year. Queen’s has been using reserve funds to cover operating deficits thus far but claims the University won’t be able to do so much longer.
Queen’s proposed ending the province’s corridor-based funding model which provides one sum in operating grants to universities as long as they’re within three per cent of their enrolment target. Given Queen’s growing enrolment, the grants aren’t covering all Queen’s students. The University is lobbying for funding to reflect enrolment.
Hu expressed concern with the recommendation to remove the corridor-based funding model, which would allow the University to increase enrolment without worrying about provincial operating grants.
With the housing shortage in Kingston, Hu doesn’t think increasing enrolment is fair to incoming students.
“The idea of the University being able to increase enrolment without giving enough thought as to whether students will be adequately supported in their life outside of the University worries me,” Hu said.
Hu doesn’t believe increasing tuition is the right solution for students.
“I speak for myself, but [also] for many other students that I would be worse off if I had to pay more tuition than I already am,” Hu said. “The cost of living here in Kingston is extremely high. My cost of tuition is extremely high. I don’t think the University should be going after students to recoup more revenue.
Rather, they should be asking for more money from the provincial government to make up those losses.”
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