Potential tuition hike pushed back a year, still on the table

President George Cooper in front of students and staff at Monday’s consultation meeting. (Photo: Emma Jones/The Watch)

Community cooperation and frustration collided at a consultation between students, professors and administration on Sept. 28th. Students heard President George Cooper announce that decisions around the previously proposed tuition hike of $1,000 for the Foundation Year Programme (FYP) would be delayed and potentially re-opened in a year’s time if the school’s recruitment goals are not met.

Cooper sat in the Red Room at King’s, facing a small crowd. There was a visible tension in the air, as several grim-faced students sat ready to discuss.

With a calm demeanor, Cooper spoke in a steady, quiet voice, thanking everyone for attending the consultation. He mentioned students’ concerns that tuition hikes could reduce enrolment and rob King’s of its competitive edge against other universities.

[pullquote]“We’ve heard you loud and clear,”[/pullquote] he said.

Cooper said that the tuition committee has proposed leaving tuition unchanged for the next year, while reserving the right to increase tuition by $500 in 2017 and 2018. This is a different proposal than their earlier idea of increasing FYP tuition by $1,000, with the potential to be implemented all at once or over three years.

Cooper said that the university needs to rally together, noting that the administration needs the help of students, particularly as recruiters. He urged community spirit and collaboration.

“We appreciate your passion and respect your opinions,” he said.

Then, after answering three questions, Cooper left the consultation to catch a flight for a scheduled meeting.

Daniel Brandes, director of FYP, took over the meeting, answering questions and reiterating the message of community.

“We are going to stand or fall together,” he said.

“We’re hoping to mobilize the whole community with recruitment,” said Registrar Julie Green.

This approach did not sit well with many students, who voiced concern that they were being asked to promote King’s while the university considers raising FYP’s tuition.

“Dr. Cooper redirected our whole conversation to retention and recruitment,” said Karis Tees, a King’s student. She noted that most students want solutions to tuition fees, not lectures in recruitment.

“$1,000 will shoot us in the foot,” said Aidan McNally, the King’s Student Union’s vice president of finance.

Other students voiced their worries and frustrations, receiving answers from Brandes, Bursar Jim Fitzpatrick, and Journalism Director Kelly Toughill. They responded sympathetically to students’ complaints while attempting to emphasize optimism.

“We cannot go through this without our students,” Brandes said. “I’d like us to be hopeful together.”

The consultation fizzled to an end after an hour, with no solid answers or solutions. Father Gary Thorne, who quietly sat in the back of the room for most of the meeting, closed the discussion, by commenting,[pullquote]“We don’t know how to listen to each other.”[/pullquote]

Everyone went their separate ways, divided by the tuition hike, but united by its potential consequences.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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