Faculty Affairs

Shari Nathan (2L) and Amani Rauff (2L)

The Faculty Council meetings of October 26 and November 23 centred on budget discussions and, as a corollary, tuition and financial aid.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

University of Toronto Budget Overview

Scott Mabury, VP University Operations, and Sally Garner, Executive Director Planning & Budget, presented a budget overview to Faculty Council on October 26. According to their presentation, the University of Toronto’s budget is developed bottom-up from the divisional level, and development is driven by the University’s academic and service priorities. The Faculty of Law’s 2016-17 revenue of $41M is raised primarily through tuition. As our largest funding source, tuition accounts for 52% of the Faculty of Law’s total revenue. Other sources of funding include the University Fund (18%), provincial operating grant (12%), endowments (7%), and other sources (11%). In turn, the majority of the Faculty’s expenses consist of compensation (54%), followed by university costs (21%), other expenses (14%), and finally financial aid (11%).

While the University of Toronto at large is expecting a total revenue growth of 7.3%, there is variation across divisions, with the Faculty of Law expecting revenue growth in 2016-17 of only 0.6%—well below the divisional average. In addition, 23.9% of the Faculty of Law’s operating budget is supported by the University Fund—much higher than the divisional average of only 9.7% for other Faculties. The Faculty of Law’s budget is structurally problematic, with a weighted average revenue increase at 2.9% compared to a weighted average expense increase at 3.4%, reflecting a structural deficit of 0.5%. The weighted average revenue increase of 2.9% is largely due to the 5% yearly tuition increase, 5% being the maximum allowable tuition increase that the Faculty can impose year over year. Dean Iacobucci claimed that the Faculty of Law budget’s structural deficit puts pressure on the Faculty to continue raising tuition by the maximum allowable 5% every year. This pressure is exacerbated by the fact that most divisions also increase their tuition rates by the allowable maximum, and the Faculty of Law is already receiving more support from the University relative to other divisions.

2L StAG representative Stephanie Lewis asked about expense-cutting possibilities such as a hiring freeze. She noted that the Faculty is currently advertising teaching positions, despite the fact that compensation amounts for their largest expense, and that the law school’s student-to-faculty ratio is 14.5:1, considerably lower than the University average of 26.1:1. Dean Iacobucci was quick to point out that no new hires have been made in the past two years, and to clarify that the school will not necessarily be hiring for all advertised positions. He claimed that the job postings reflect discussions and thought about replacement rather than growth, and that hiring will only be considered for exceptional candidates. StAG Vice President Katie Longo also questioned discretionary raises, particularly the Faculty’s use of “retention bonuses” to keep faculty members who receive competitive offers from other institutions. Dean Iacobucci insisted that retention bonuses are not common practice and are only used at exceptional “moments . . . [that] are fewer these days.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A New Dual Degree Program

Faculty Council voted to approve a new Dual Degree Program with the National University of Singapore (NUS) after the proposed changes were presented by Mariana Prado, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Under the new program, NUS students can complete three years of LL.B. curriculum at NUS, then come to the University of Toronto to complete one year of LL.M. studies. After a total of four years, students would finish with an LL.B. from NUS and an LL.M. from U of T. The program will only be offered to applicants from NUS, which is one of the world’s top universities with a renowned law program. Extension of the program to other applicants would require further approval; however, because this is the first program change of this type, extension of the program may not be as difficult in the future, if this program change is successful. Prado emphasized that, effectively, the school is only extending the period of time after which NUS students must show proof of having attained an undergraduate law degree.

Tuition and Financial Aid

The budget, tuition, and financial aid discussion kicked off with an address from SLS President Sarah Bittman. The SLS reaffirmed the relevance and continued commitment to the three requests put forth last year of (1) adopting measurable goals for fundraising, (2) releasing financial demographic data, and (3) guaranteeing access to loans for students accepte with poor or no credit.

Bittman also listed a number of concerns that students expressed at this semester’s town hall on financial aid and tuition:

  • A more progressive distribution of financial aid;
  • Taking prior student debt into consideration in calculation of financial aid;
  • Transparency of the financial aid appeals process; and
  • The impact of debt on career choices.

According to Bittman, some of these concerns can be addressed through policy changes by way of Financial Aid Committee, but many relate to the deficient size of the financial aid pot.

Students expressed concerns about the sustainability of relying on philanthropy to keep the financial aid pot growing in step with rising tuition. One concern raised was that students who are now graduating saddled with more debt and an arguably less marketable degree, will be less likely to donate back to the school. Another concern was that, more generally, philanthropy is variable and dependent on the whims of donors. A shortfall in financial aid funds has made it, (and will continue to make it) so that the tuition paid by students receiving financial aid is effectively increasing by more than the allowed 5% per year. The Dean responded to these concerns by saying that we are not “all in” on philanthropy, and that “a very small fraction” of the $3 million that goes to the JD program comes from philanthropy. According to the Dean, “This is not philanthropy flops, financial aid is stagnant: if philanthropy flops, financial aid will not grow the way we’d like it to.” However, given the Dean’s earlier remarks that all of the school’s sources of funding other than tuition and philanthropy are flat (so decreasing in real terms), and expenses are increasing, it seems that if philanthropy “flops,” tuition will continue to increase while financial aid falls behind.

Students and faculty also raised concerns over the lack of detail on the school’s fundraising campaign, goals, and strategy. The Dean replied that it is “important to appreciate that we are just coming off a $35 million campaign for the building, so for me to be public about where we’re going to be on our giving in five years would be problematic.” The Dean said that there are two pools in our alumni base: the roughly 8% of people who gave to the Building campaign, and the 90% plus who did not. He said that the school will be working harder to solicit funds from the latter group. The Dean acknowledged that people are frustrated with the lack of any specifics on fundraising, but does not feel that the Faculty can answer that question yet.

On emergency loans, the Dean said that “we’ve moved in a way that we never have previously to make loans directly available to people without credit ratings or with low credit [but there are] a lot of issues in the way,” including problems with meeting financial reporting obligations when the Faculty acts as lender to students. The Dean said he understands the concern but that there are a lot of challenges in practice.

Ultra Vires asked whether the Faculty will be releasing the data for 2016 that they released in a limited capacity last year for 2010-2015 after pushes from SLS and UV. The Dean said it would not: it requires resources, there is a lack of comparative data from other schools, and it “doesn’t seem to move the conversation forward.” According to the Dean, high tuition will be problematic for some people regardless of the data, and others only want more data once some data is released. He thought that the data released last year “was reassuring as to where we were at” but only led to more conversations. Further, he says that the school’s strategy will remain the same regardless of what the data shows.