Faculty Affairs: Dean Iacobucci discloses data in response to student requests

Matthew Howe (3L)

Dean Iacobucci spent much of the November 25, 2015 Faculty Council meeting responding to student requests for household income information arising from the prior meeting. The Students’ Law Society (SLS) had requested that the Faculty release the parental income data for the 50% of students who apply for financial aid to provide a partial picture of socioeconomic diversity at the law school. It also requested that the Faculty begin collecting the same data for the rest of the class. The SLS argued that only actual data, not the postal code data the Faculty currently uses as a proxy, could accurately measure family income levels at the law school.

This request was echoed by an independent group of students (which included this author) who sent an open letter to Dean Iacobucci.

Iacobucci began by defending the Faculty’s current approach to tracking and sharing demographic information on its students, stating that he’s “never seen a Faculty as transparent as we have been.” He also questioned the motives of those requesting more data, suggesting that people interested in more socioeconomic data are mostly those absolutely opposed to tuition increases, and that these people often “don’t engage with the empirical evidence.” As a result, he was “hesitant to extend the conversation much further.”

That said, he provided the parental-income data for students who applied for financial aid between 2010 and 2015.

Parental Income

(2015 dollars)

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Under $25k 26 18 19 28 34 29
$25k – $50k 22 33 28 41 29 28
$50k – $75k 34 36 35 38 41 34
$75k – $100k 50 37 40 36 36 40
$100k – $125k 46 49 43 50 45 45
$125k – $150k 41 41 43 42 41 40
$150k – $175k 27 26 24 22 36 39
$175k – $200k 26 23 17 19 20 24
Over $200k 47 39 42 54 67 70
 
Total under $50k 48 51 47 69 63 57
Total under $100k 132 124 122 143 140 131
Total under $150k 219 214 208 235 226 216
Total under $200k 272 263 249 276 282 279
Total applicants 319 302 291 330 349 349

Parental Income for financial aid applicants at U of T Law, 2010-2015

The data show there has been no significant change in the number of students from low-income households attending the law school in the past five years. However, it also shows that there have consistently been few students from lower income brackets in absolute terms through that period. (The median household income in Canada was $76,000 on the 2011 Census.)

One trend is that, as tuition increases, more students from wealthier families are applying for and receiving financial aid. From the data, Iacobucci concluded that persistently increasing tuition has not affected the socioeconomic diversity of the class, noting that “from a diversity perspective, what’s really crucial is that the numbers [of low-income students] are steady.” He also argued that the data confirmed that the postal-code proxy data, which also showed no changes over the same time period, is reliable.

Iacobucci did not release family income data for the years between 2003 (when it was last released) and 2010.

The Dean stressed that none of this should be interpreted as “a recipe for complacency”, and that “we need to continue to grow financial aid as pressures on tuition continue.”

He also suggested that he was uncomfortable sharing socioeconomic data when other law schools do not. He said that he will raise the issue of data collection and disclosure at the next meeting of the Canadian Council of Law Deans. Professor Reaume commented that U of T Law has been a “leader on jacking up tuition” so it needs to take leadership on tracking this data.

Dean Iacobucci ended by again questioning the usefulness of the conversation, given his understanding of the requesters’ motives and making clear that he was not committing to “have this conversation” (i.e. release parental income data) every year. He did not comment on the second part of the SLS data request—that the Faculty begin collecting parental income data on the 50% of students at the Faculty who do not apply for financial aid.

For the remainder of the meeting, Faculty Council heard from Scott Mabury, VP Operations for U of T, and Sally Garner, Executive Director of U of T’s Planning and Budget Office. Mabury and Garner spoke at length about the University’s budget and fiscal outlook. They told the familiar U of T story about how government postsecondary funding has remained stagnant for years as costs have increased. This has created a structural deficit for the University as a whole, and many departments and faculties in particular (including Law). Scott Mabury suggested that reduced public funding was a good thing because he said that the government wants to control things that it funds.

U of T plans to increase revenue in the coming years by increasing overall enrolment, and international enrolment in particular. (International students pay higher tuition fees.)

Echoing Iacobucci’s addresses in past meetings, Mabury and Garner stated that the only way to solve the Faculty’s budget deficit is to increase revenues and become more productive.