Issue 36, Volume 85
March 27, 2013
A UWindsor Law student upset with the high cost of tuition is taking his qualms to the Law Union of Ontario.
Second-year law student Chris Rudnicki has written a paper for the provincial union citing that the greatest barrier to affordable and accessible legal education is tuition.
“We always gripe about it, but nobody really knows the history of it. For that project, I researched what the driver of tuition fees were over time and what they were historically,” said Rudnicki, who submitted freedom of information requests pertaining to the cost of tuition and expenses at Windsor’s law school.
Rudnicki discovered that in 1978 tuition was $785 per semester; today it stands at
“The principal drivers have been government austerity, both at the federal and provincial level. In 1994, the Liberal government under (Prime Minister Jean Chrétien cut education transfers significantly … and that forced provincial governments to cut back on their ability to spend on education,” said Rudnicki.
Deregulation under Premier Mike Harris allowed for professional programs to increase at an unregulated rate until the policy was reversed and a limit was put in place.
“Windsor Law’s tuition is actually very reasonable by Ontario standards,” said Camille Cameron, dean of Windsor Law. “At some point just before it was decided that there would be a freeze on the extent to which law schools could raise their tuition … some law schools increased their tuition quite dramatically.”
“Windsor law specifically, explicitly [and] consciously resisted doing that [because]
they understand that while tuition has to go up to help pay the costs of the complex institutions that modern universities are, there’s also an access issue,” said Cameron.
Rudnicki sees the debt as a major influence on graduates’ future career choices.
“Many students come in and they have debt from their undergrad, from their college degrees … and then they tack on the law school debt,” explained Rudnicki. “With this debt load, they make a decision that they need to make as much money
as possible, which closes doors that students might want to pursue.”
First-year law student Alexis Chernish echoed this sentiment and explained that the high cost of tuition paired with academic demands “changes what type of law you want to get into.”
“Things that I’m interested in, like social justice law, don’t pay very well and it’s very
easy to look at corporate law that pays a starting wage of $80,000 a year,” said Chernish. “Economically, it’s hard when you’re in law school, but when you’re planning for your future you can be persuaded to look at different types of law.”
Rudnicki has started Students for Affordable Legal Education, a Facebook group committed to either lowering or freezing the cost of tuition.
“The board of governors has the capacity to freeze tuition fees or lower them,” said
Rudnicki. “I don’t think that we’re in a position to lower tuition fees at this very second, but I think they could freeze them and remain financially solvent, at least for the foreseeable future. We have power here, [and] too often students [accept] the status quo. Without us this university wouldn’t exist, and if we wanted to, we
could bring this university to the ground and if we need to. I think we should, in order to lower tuition fees.”
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Associate News Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.