Day of Action demonstration planned for UWindsor campus February 1; financial challenges top of mind for students and administration

Sunset Avenue is expected to be busier than usual on Wednesday, February 1, during the National Day of Action student demonstration planned between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The issue of tuition fees will take centre stage at UWindsor and on campuses all across the country as students hold rallies to voice their concerns.

Ontario universities are awaiting the release of the provincial tuition fee framework and the government’s budget in March. Like campuses across the province, UWindsor is challenged with costs that continue to rise faster than revenue, and as elsewhere in Ontario, tuition fees necessarily have risen to the maximum allowable increase to help offset the shortfall.

The university currently operates with a balanced budget of $219.4 million in revenue. Student academic fees contribute to half of that amount at $109.5 million, and government grants make up 48 per cent, or $106.1 million. The other two per cent is attributed to donations and investment income.

For the 2011/2012 academic year, domestic student tuition fee increases were: eight per cent in the first year of business, law, computer science and engineering; 4.5 per cent for the first year in all other undergraduate programs; and four per cent increase for years two through four.

President Alan Wildeman explains that despite increased tuition, interest in UWindsor continues to grow.

“We are experiencing a strong increase in applications and to the best of our ability are investing in what’s important to our students. A part of the investment we are making is for capital projects to improve learning and working spaces. Those capital investments are being made in ways that will not further restrict the operating budget of the university. They will further strengthen our ability to be competitive.”

UWindsor continues to invest in its students through scholarships, bursaries, graduate assistantships and the Strategic Priority Fund (SPF). The SPF provides financial resources for initiatives that support the University’s strategic plan. More than 30 projects that directly benefit students have been introduced, including new academic offerings such as Digital Journalism and Aerospace Engineering, as well as first-year success programs, and initiatives to increase student safety -- to name just a few.

The Strategic Priority Fund has enabled the University to provide resources to support the strategic plan, even during substantial budget realignments that have totaled more than $34 million over the past four years.

“We are faced with the challenge of taking an additional $4.2 million in expenses out of the operating budget by the beginning of our next fiscal year on May 1, representing our fifth year of realignment. As in the past, these cuts will not impact student scholarships and bursaries,” said Wildeman.

The financial challenges of the university have been widely communicated through the President’s Update #14 distributed last December and during the Campus Community Address on January 12.

He added, “Like every large public institution, we can’t continue to do things as we have in the past. I will continue to work with my colleagues across the province to ensure the government of Ontario understands the challenge of meeting the province’s desire that quality and affordability continue to be the focus of higher education.”