Last September, the administration of the University of Guelph announced it was beginning a ‘Program Prioritization Process’ (PPP), which it said would “assess all of its academic and non-academic programs and services…to identify and focus on U of G’s strengths .” The process involves ranking every program and service at the University, from Mathematics and Philosophy to parking, according to its importance. While the decision making process has not been transparent, programs which are not seen as profitable are clearly much more vulnerable than those that are. The PPP was initiated with help from an American consultant, Robert Dickson, who has become a guru for University administrations across North America looking for ways to cut costs. Because cutting costs is the the whole point of this process. $32.4 million in cuts are planned as part of the PPP at the University of Guelph.
While these massive cuts are being made, students are being forced to pay more every year in tuition fees, with increases from $200 to $400 this year. Tuition fee increases are often justified on the grounds that they are necessary to maintain or improve the quality of the education we receive. But these cuts will undermine that quality at the same time as students are forced to pay more for their education. This is why the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee has launched the ‘Pay More, Get Less’ campaign. Our goal is to mobilize as many students as possible to stop these cuts, as part of the wider struggle for fully public, accessible, quality and free higher education. We understand that the cause behind the PPP cuts is the same as the one behind tuition increases: the underfunding and increasing privatization of public education.
Over the past decade, public funding for higher education has been cut dramatically. A few years ago Ontario reached the point where less than half of funding for our universities was provided by the government. In order to make up this gap, students have been forced to pay ever-increasing tuition fees, and universities have opened the doors to private investment on a huge scale. An example of this is Guelph’s ‘Better Planet Project’. Corporations are putting money into universities, but only into areas they see potential profit in. This increasing corporate funding undermines the role of the university as a institution that is supposed to serve the public good.
Government underfunding, fee increases, and cuts like the PPP are not inevitable. In 2009, student resistance saved the Organic agriculture program at Guelph from being eliminated. Last year, Quebec students stopped a seventy-five percent tuition fee hike, and students from Chile to Italy have been fighting against cuts and for quality, accessible education. If students and workers at this university can organize and make it clear that we will not accept these cuts, we can fight them and stop them. We don’t have to pay more and get less.