Monday, December 15, 2008

Bilking students

At a meeting of the York Senate on December 11th,* the President of York University Mamdouh Shoukri announced that he is asking the province to increase the $4,700 per term cap on OSAP, so that York and other universities can officially charge more for tuition. As one Senator pointedly remarked, Shoukri’s proposed ’solution’ to university underfunding is to throw the burden onto students by upping student fees and debt.

Bilking students and their parents’ long-earned savings for education by means of tuition fees, then siphoning that money away from the classroom to other projects has been a growing and menacing trend in

Canada’s publicly funded institutions of higher education. Now, richly paid University Presidents, their glitzy PR machines, and sky-high-priced legal teams and corporate-backed Senior Administrators are spinning the public even harder, using the economic downturn as their latest excuse for creating oversized classes, overstressed learning environments, and overworked teachers. Their notion of higher education allows for “just-in-time” education, as if student education and university degrees are products to be made on a factory assembly line.

As CUPE 3903 has stated before (see the links HERE and HERE), research shows that during economic hard times, enrollment goes up. In an interview published November 24th,** the interim Dean of Ryerson University’s Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Julia E. Hanigsberg said that research from Canada’s last recession proves this beyond a doubt. This fact begs the question, “where’s the money?” When enrollments rise, shouldn’t universities ensure that money from student tuition goes into teaching those very students, and supporting them to learn?

The trend at York University and other institutions of higher education, is that student money paid for education is instead misused and abused for shiny new buildings, Executive Administrator salaries, perks and bonuses. In the United States, the trend in this direction is now firmly in place, with the resulting student debtload in the tens and hundred thousands. Is this what we want for Canada? Is York University leading the way?

In the US, the public broadcasting program “Newshour” with contributions from “Learning Matters Television” recently broadcast a two-part feature on these issues, their tragic history and current legacy in the United States. They also confronted the myths of the economic downturn as they are used by universities to squeeze students.
Follow the original here for the NewsHour clips.

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