April 11, 2022

Speech by APUS President, Jaime Kearns, to Governing Council, opposing increased fees for out-of-province students

This speech was delivered by APUS President, Jaime Kearns, at the University’s Governing Council meeting on March 31st, 2022.

Thank you Mr. Chair for granting APUS the opportunity to speak on what we feel is a very important issue. My name is Jaime Kearns and I am the president of APUS representing roughly 6,000-8,000 students here at U of T. I am also in a unique position as an Indigenous student to speak here today.

It is our belief at APUS that the university should reconsider its proposal to introduce differential fees between students coming from inside and outside Ontario. While we recognize the budgetary constraints placed on the university by consistent freezes in government funding to universities, U of T should not embrace a clearly opportunistic move by the provincial government, which plays to the needs of those most likely to vote in Ontario elections, but not those from the rest of Canada.

U of T is one of Canada’s most globally recognized universities; as such it is vitally important that access to study at U of T not be restricted by differing financial burdens across provinces. Over time, differing fees for out-of-province students is likely to restrict access to U of T, creating an unfair system for students from other provinces, where the cost of education at Canada’s most globally recognized university is higher merely because of the province they come from.

While the provincial government has passed a law to allow for differential fees between in-province and out-of-province students, U of T is by no means required to implement such changes. Indeed, as one of the largest and wealthiest universities in the country, U of T is in a uniquely capable position to resist this change.

While the initial 3% raise may not create a large differential between the fees of in-province and out-of-province students, accepting the premise that this is an acceptable system of fee-setting will see the gap widen year-on-year. This may lead to the point where students from outside of Ontario who have been accepted to U of T feel the need to go elsewhere solely for financial reasons.

With differential fees already legal in Québec, with enormous fee differentials for in-province and out-of-province students at McGill, Canadian students from outside of Ontario and Québec may soon be priced out of both of Canada’s most high-profile universities. If more provinces and universities follow suit, these changes may lead to a US-style system in which only the wealthiest students feel able to study outside their own province

This will also have a detrimental impact to Indigenous students who come to UofT from all over Canada. Relying on band funding through the government’s PSSSP is challenging at the best of times but with this new tier system in place, it will be doubly challenging for Indigenous students especially if they are from smaller communities outside of Ontario with limited resources and opportunities for funding. While it is only a 3% increase this year, there is nothing to ensure that the gap won’t widen drastically in the years to come making U of T completely inaccessible to a huge number of Indigenous peoples. I fear that graduation rates will drop significantly as fees increase for out of province students who’s reserves do not have the capacity of handling such fees for their members.

I am not sure what the consultation process with Indigenous Initiatives has been regarding this topic, however, I would like to know how the university plans to support Indigenous students who will be impacted by this if it passes here today. If U of T is still committed to continuing the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, one of which includes recruitment and retention of Indigenous students, this differential fee system will limit studying at U of T to only those who live in Ontario or those who are willing to leave their home communities if they are from other provinces. 

We urge members of the Governing Council and University leadership to reconsider accepting the principle of differentiating fees for domestic students.