The cost of living at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) campus is going up again for the 2009-2010 school year, the result of recently approved budgets by the Erindale College Council. Held on January 29, the Resource Planning & Priorities Committee meeting presented budgets for Food Services Management and Residence Management, as well as for Conference Services Management and Parking Services.
The committee announced that rental charges for undergraduate residences will be increased by an average of 5.5 per cent in 2009-2010, while rates for family and graduate rentals will go up by 3.25 per cent. Last year student housing rates increased by 8 per cent for undergraduate students and 4 per cent for families and graduate students.
The fact that residence is increasing its prices is a real concern for residence students and future residence students, explained Aly-Khan Madhavji, a first year representative with UTM Students Union. We can see some of the residences have gone up nearly 12 per cent, which is a substantial financial burden on residence students.
Also announced was that due to the economic slowdown, UTM plans to negotiate with Chartwells, the food service provider for UTM, to minimize food price increases to 3.5 — 4 per cent. According to the Food Services Management report, this would be lower than the reported 7.6 per cent increase of food in the general marketplace.
But the price of food at OPH cafeteria is already high in relation to the No Frills grocery at South Common. For example, one litre of Sealtest 2 per cent milk is $2.98 at OPH, and only $2.17 for the Neilson brand at the grocery store. The cost of Ruffles Regular Chips is $3.98 if bought on campus, compared to $2.99 at No Frills. If Chartwells only increases the price of food by 3.5 per cent and the price at No Frills goes up by 7.6 per cent, a student would still pay $4.12 for the same bag of chips they could get for $3.22 at No Frills.
Residence students must purchase a meal plan in order to live on campus. Students could shop at other grocery locations instead, but that would be an extra cost above the meal plans they must pre-purchase at the beginning of every academic year. The price for student meal plans will also increase by 2.3 per cent on average the next school year , but the actual monetary value of the required first-year plans will not go up. Although the reason for the increase in prices of meal plans was not directly addressed, the committee noted that upper-year meal plans will have the benefit of being fully exempt from taxes commencing in September 2009.
These increases in the price of residence and meal plans will deter students from returning to residence next year, said Madhavji. He noted that international students in particular are more dependent on living in residence, and thus will be forced to accept the higher cost of living. This will simply increase the student debt and will add to the already exceptionally high international tuition fees, he added.
At OPH [Oscar Peterson Hall] students are paying more than $600 per month. I think that is definitely overpriced, said Gabriella Guo, a second year don at OPH. The rental charge to live in OPH is in fact $675 per month for eight months, and on top of the rental charge, residence students pay $340 for a UTM residence admin fee and $20 toward residence council.
Guo added that she was also disappointed with the way residence students have no choice but to accept the cost of living set by the University. If you are allocated in OPH there is absolutely no way to cook. You are not even allowed to have a personal stove, so you have to completely rely on the cafeteria.
Furthermore, during open house tours, UTM gives prospective students the impression that food quality and variety is better than it really is. The way that it works is very tricky. When they are having a residence tour they put the emphasis on the cafeteria, showing that they have a variety of food. Of course when you [first] go there and see the different sections you would think that, but later on, you tend to realize that, yes we have different [food] sections, but the food in those sections never really change.
Sunita Haridas, a first year CCIT student living in OPH said she will have higher expectations of the food quality and variety if the University plans to charge more for food services. If they are going to increase the prices, then they should show us some change. If they are going to charge us more, then they should provide us with more, said Haridas adding that she wouldnt mind paying more if there was more variety and extended service hours.
Madhavji also noted that students need to get involved in order to initiate change in residence and food services. Students need to start campaigns and send letters of disappointment, urged Madhaji. We need to push for the change we want to see around our campus. We can do this by keeping the pressure on the University to provide better services for students, he concluded.