Can You Take Me Higher: The Case for Raising Tuition

Kevin Schoenfeldt (3L)

There are many things that we students of law accept as truths about law school. Few would argue, for example, against the proposition that law school is difficult. All but a small minority of ornery nitpickers would agree that the practice of law is amongst the highest of callings. I think we can all agree that LPPE is truly the most useful and intellectually stimulating class that any one of us has ever taken. That, of course, is a joke.

There is, however, one issue which we are supposed to take as an absolute law school truth above all other truths. The third rail of law school politics: touch it, and you will be killed. I am talking, of course, about tuition. “Tuition is too high” is practically the motto of our faithful SLS. “Tuition is too high” is the refrain that the student body sings day in and day out. I am quite sure I have not gone a day since Orientation Week without hearing somebody, somewhereoftentimes to no one in particular, as if a prayer in the wind—saying, “tuition is too high.”

Well, my friends, it is about time that someone had the courage to do battle against this received wisdom. If law school is for nothing else, it is for learning to make arguments based in logic, reason, and rationality rather than feeling one’s way through issues. We feel that tuition is too high and so we believe it. We feel a sense of impending financial destruction when we max out our lines of credit and we let that feeling steer us toward the conclusion that tuition is too high. If paying for law school makes us feel like we will have no control over our own lives for as long as we and are our heirs shall live, then tuition must be too high, right?

In short, no, tuition is not too high. It is the exact opposite. We must raise tuition. Right now, the administration increases tuition five percent each year. That simply will not do. We must form a united front and force the government to legislate a return to the glorious Eden that was 1998, when tuition was deregulated and people had values. We must remind the administration how good it felt in the early 2000s, when tuition could be raised whenever someone wanted a new car or there was a hot new restaurant in town selling thousand dollar steaks.

I can hear the critics now: “But Kevin,” they’ll say, “it’s already difficult for anyone who is not possessed of vast wealth to afford tuition.” They’ll say, “This is wrong, Kevin. This will hurt people. This will make our law school an even more uniform place than it already is.” Isn’t it just like them to exaggerate this way? To speak about that which they do not truly understand?

No, increasing tuition by fifty, sixty, even seventy percent will not hurt people. No, it will not make our school a more uniform place. The true magic of this plan to significantly increase tuition is that it will actually mean more people will be able to afford U of T Law than can afford it now. The next Justice Brown will not be left behind simply because he cannot raise the necessary tuition money.

It’s really quite simple. Tuition goes up. Let’s say that it has been raised to $100,000 per year. Surely there are at least one hundred students in Canada who can afford that. That’s $10,000,000 right there. With all that extra money we improve financial aid, and that’s another hundred students from all walks of life who can now attend U of T Law for free.

Except, some of that new money will have to go to hiring and retaining even better faculty. We can’t have our brightest legal minds leaving for somewhere else, now can we? So maybe that’s $5,000,000 for faculty, leaving $5,000,000 left over. That’s fifty students from low-income households attending U of T paying no tuition. Just to be safe, though, let’s assume another $2,500,000 will go to operating costs, so that leaves $2,500,000 for financial aid. Twenty-five students attending on full bursaries!

The mathematically-inclined among you will have noticed that my calculations result in a class of only 125 people. But don’t forget, Scotiabank will surely raise the limits of our lines of credit commensurate with the increase in tuition. Surely there are seventy-five people out there willing to go $300,000 into debt for the chance at a high-calibre legal education from U of T. The plan works.

Finally, some of you will try to say that this is all nonsense. You’ll try to coin a catchy term like “trickle-down tuition,” and you’ll make ad hominem attacks without ever actually making an argument. To that I have nothing to say. Some people are just too stupid to listen to reason.