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:

  2007/08 2008/09 Increase
New College Room $5,305 $6,366 20%
New College Full Meal Plan $3,841 $3,975 3.5%
Total Residence Fee $9,146 $10,341 13.1%

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.


Fact Check: U of T residence fee increase

  1. These PROTESTERS are a DISGRACE to a fine institution like U of T. They are nothing more then barbaric THUGS who were intimidating innocent working STAFF, then preventing them from coming home to their families. These are men and women who had NOTHING to do with the fee increases or the other ridiculous demands of these idiots.

    I can’t wait for President Naylor to expel the offending parties. Good riddance you extremist thugs, take your juvenile antics elsewhere!

  2. It’s good to see proper numbers. In a sense, however, a fight over how the numbers should be crunched is a waste of everyone’s time. Now matter how it’s sliced up this is a very substantial increase and far in excess of inflation. If it can be justified, somehow, the university has an onus to justify it. Any increase in excess of inflation needs some explanation. Substantial increases need a lot of explanation.

    In my opinion, the right number to reference depends on the context of one’s concern. If general affordibility of residence is the issue, then fine, use a 13.1% figure that includes both room and board, since they come as a package regardless. If the issue is debate over the justifications (or lack of them) to support a mammoth increase in the cost of a room (since these things are all supposedly justified with reference to real costs) then 20% is the correct figure to cite. I’m in a (graduate) residence with a meal plan also. Food costs have increased significantly this past year, and with inflation at 2% (give or take) a total increase of 3.5% there is not unreasonable. If students choose to accept the meal plan increase a reasonable (I would) and want to focus instead on demanding answers about why facilities costs for a room have suddenly sky-rocketed, then I think their focus is well placed. 20% is, quite genuinely, the figure to focus on. There’s a rhetorical motive to use it, but it’s also the figure most relevant to the really good questions.

  3. Well Mr. Steiner, I’m going to argue that the increase is 15% and not 10%. Why? Glad you asked.

    The actual percentage of the total increase, 13.1% is WAY closer to 15% than it is to 10%.

    For the love of everything in this world, why must administrations spit in our faces and tell us it’s raining?

  4. Well it seems that at least the protesters were getting their number from somewhere, whereas Steiner picked a number inaccurate by their own documentation — as Danny V says, closer to 15%.

    This adds much more legitimacy to Always Question than many people have been allowing for so far. It does make you wonder what else Steiner and his cronies have rendered woefully inaccurate.

  5. Sure, prices are going up by less because food is only going up by 3.5%. That’s like saying that your cost of living only went up by 10% when your rent is jacked up by 20% but your grocery bill stays constant. In that case, no one would ever call the price increase 10%.

    The fact is, New College is the shabbiest residence on campus and it is becoming one of the most expensive. Live off campus, you’ll save yourself a bunch of money.

  6. I think Jeff Rybak has it right when he points out that University’s keep pointing to inflation every time they raise fees well above inflation.

    From my experience, University Administrators never give any justification to the students as to why their tuition fees are going up 4.5% – 8% every year.

    In the case of UofT residence, we can argue whether it’s closer to 10% or 20% all we want, but both numbers seem ridiculously high without any justification provided; we are talking about an already built residence here, are we not? Where’s the improved services to justify an at least 8% increase above inflation? This is supposed to be an accessible public institution.

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