CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Bargaining Blog
~ your issues, your process, your contract ~

Tuition Hikes

August 18, 2009

In May 2009, McMaster’s Board of Governors approved a slew of tuition increases affecting nearly every program at the university. These hikes were most severe for graduate students and especially international students. The increases work out to $411 for domestic TAs, $753 for international TAs and $250 for undergraduate TAs. These increases were barely publicized and many students did not even know about the increases until hit with excessive invoices for this semester’s tuition. But the question remains, why were these increases so large and why now? The answer lies right in the minutes of the Board of Governors themselves.

“The point was made that the overall aim should be to maximise the revenue received by the University, relative to the cost of providing the various programs. Mr. Couldrey commented that the current cost allocation methodology is not sophisticated enough to be able to provide detailed information with regard to leveraging the income received. The University therefore focuses on optimising the available revenue and is proposing the maximum increase wherever possible.”

From the Board of Governors official approved minutes, May 7, 2009. Volume 56, page 64, available at:

So the reason why tuition was increased was simply because it could be increased. The fact that the goal is to “optimis[e] the available revenue” clearly states McMaster’s intention to continue to increase tuition by the maximum amount in every following year. It appears the BOG learned the basic principles of micro economics quite well; the way to optimise a revenue stream with relatively inelastic demand is to continue to increase the price until the consumers (in this case students) are forced to reduce their consumption (drop out of full time studies) and an equilibrium is reached.

It is clear that McMaster has absolutely no intention to maintain an accessible institution of higher education. Instead the BOG has decided that the student body is merely another consumer to be squeezed for every last penny of profit. Your teaching assistants absolutely do not accept that students are just another “revenue stream” to be optimized through artificial price increases. We see ourselves as critical members of the educational fabric at McMaster who deserve to be treated fairly.

CUPE 3906 is united in opposing the destruction of accessible education at McMaster. Our bargaining team has brought forward several proposals that begin to address the chronic problems at McMaster. We’ve proposed an increase in paid hours from 260 / year to 280 / year for full TAs to address the chronic overwork of TAs and provide much needed extra income. For graduate student TAs with full TAships, the bargaining team has also proposed a tuition rebate program, which will cancel out the effect of the tuition increase.

To see a full list of the key CUPE 3906 proposals, as well as the current employer response, please see our latest Bargaining Bulletin: here.

To see the effects of the current Employer and Union packages on the pockets of TAs, see: here.

The McMaster University community is a whole ecosystem of interdependent workers, students and educators. We all have a stake in the future of this university. By standing together we can affect positive change and reform this ailing institution.

In solidarity,

CUPE 3906 Bargaining Team


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