Fact Check: U of T residence fee increase

University of Toronto protestors say they’re fighting a 20% fee increase. The university says it’s closer to 10%. Who’s right?

The University of Toronto plans to increase the residence fee for students living in the one of the downtown campus residences, the New College residence.

A group of protesters calling themselves “AlwaysQuestion” held a protest last Thursday. The group said it was protesting a “20 per cent residence fee increase” at New College.

However, the university spokesperson, Robert Steiner, stated that the protestors did not have their facts straight: according to him, the proposed fee increase is closer to 10 per cent, not 20 per cent.

So who’s right? Have a look at the table below. It shows residence costs at New College for 07/08, and proposed price for 08/09:

New College Room$5,305$6,36620%
New College Full Meal Plan$3,841$3,9753.5%
Total Residence Fee$9,146$10,34113.1%

The protestors claim that they are fighting against a “20% residence fee increase” at New College. On the face of it, it seems hard to argue with their math. The room fee is going up by 20 per cent. Case closed.

Or maybe not. The university argues that the term “residence fee” commonly means both the cost of room (rent) and meals (board). You can’t buy one without the other. And it is the use of the term “residence fee” —covering both room and board—that the university bases its argument on.

The cost of living in New College residence this year (2007/2008) is $9,146. If the proposed fee increases are approved by the university’s Governing Council, the cost of living in New College will increase to $10,341 next school year. This represents an increase of 13.1 per cent.

According to Steiner, the “closer to 10 per cent” figure he cited was arrived at by taking the 13.1 per cent increase (and our math wizard says that, yes indeed, 13.1 per cent is closer to 10 per cent than it is to 20 per cent), and further deducting the amount that inflation contributes to the increase.

So who is right? The students aren’t wrong: the rent portion of the residence fee is increasing by 20 per cent. But the university isn’t wrong either: the total residence fee, covering room and board, is increasing 13.1 per cent—which is “closer to 10 per cent” than it is to 20 per cent. But the university is overreaching in trying to describe part of that 13.1 per cent increase as not an increase at all, but just inflation. The fees may be going up in part because of inflation, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going up.

For more information on the reasons behind the proposed increase, read page 15 of the report to the Governing Council.