Ultra Vires


Annual Faculty Council Meeting on Tuition and Budget

SLS addresses disappointment over tuition; brings attention to the recent passing of Jamal Howlader (JD 2020)

The law school remains largely empty with the complete shift to online classes. Photo credit: Jacqueline Huang

On Wednesday November 18, Faculty Council held its annual discussion on tuition and budget, this time via Zoom. This was Dean Edward Iacobucci’s last Faculty Council as dean of the law school. 

Students’ Law Society (SLS) Updates

SLS President Robert Nanni (4L JD/MBA) began with brief remarks, noting the stressors faced by the law school community as the end of the term draws near, with 1Ls facing law school exams for the first time, and other students writing exams remotely once again. He drew attention to mental health concerns, and asked attendees to check in with each other, and for faculty members to check in with students. 

Nanni also spoke about the recent passing of Jamal Howlader, a member of the JD class of 2020, and noted the heartwarming response of the law school community in coming together.

Denna Pourmonazah Jalili (4L JD/MBA), began fundraising efforts for a Faculty of Law bursary in Howlader’s honour, and contributions from the community quickly surpassed the $25,000 minimum that U of T requires for a named bursary. Dean Iacobucci added that he had been in touch with the family, and expressed that the bursary was a “lovely tribute” and would help future students. 

Graduate Law Students’ Association (GLSA) Updates

Anil Nair, President of the GLSA, noted that the distancing effect of remote learning is more salient for graduate students, like himself, as many are only at the Faculty for a year. The GLSA is working on ways to improve graduate students’ social experience at the Faculty. 

Budget and Tuition

Dean Iacobucci prefaced the discussion on budget and tuition by noting that Faculty Council does not have authority over the law school’s budget. The Office of the Dean, in consultation with the Faculty’s Chief Administrative Officer Annette Henry, and others, creates a budget plan that is subject to the approval of the Provost and the Governing Council. Dean Iacobucci stated that he provides the budget presentation as a courtesy, that it will be at the next dean’s discretion to continue or discontinue the practice, noting that these reports were initially proposed as a forum for discussing the impact of tuition increases on the law school community. 

The Big Picture 

Dean Iacobucci first presented U of T’s 2020-2021 balanced budget to contextualize the environment in which the law school operates. 

U of T’s 2020-2021 balanced budget

The bulk of revenue from tuition and fees comes from U of T’s international students. Dean Iacobucci noted that tuition and fees across the university at large have remained robust despite the pandemic, but heeds caution as winter term enrollment may change. 

However, Dean Iacobucci noted that U of T’s projected revenue growth rates are falling, independent of the pandemic. The growth rate of domestic tuition is regulated by Ontario’s provincial government, which implemented a 10% decrease in domestic tuition in 2019-2020 and the tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 school year. Much of the revenue growth had been driven by international students’ tuition, which had been rising at approximately 10% year over year across U of T’s three campuses. Dean Iacobucci noted that there was little room for further increases, as U of T’s tuition rates for international students in the Faculty of Arts and Science draw close to the rates charged by top American universities. 

Dean Iacobucci conveyed a lack of confidence regarding provincial grants. The Strategic Mandate Agreement for Ontario Universities and Colleges governs the operating grants received, with performance-based funding. He stated that meeting performance targets will defend an institution from getting less funding, however, exceeding targets will not promise additional funding. 

While Dean Iacobucci acknowledged that performance metrics are difficult to formulate, he said that the metrics used by the province “are a real grab-bag.” He noted that some metrics, like the size of a university relative to the community in which it sits, appear to be geared towards economic development in smaller communities, which he recognizes as “a valid goal,” albeit “nothing to do with academic excellence.” Dean Iacobucci said “to call us a public university at this point is a bit of a misnomer,” and that it is “anachronistic,” suggesting that U of T be called a “publicly-supported university” instead. 

The Faculty of Law

Structural Budget Challenge 

Dean Iacobucci noted that while the Faculty has been able to balance the budget despite challenges in recent years, it faces a “structural budget challenge” and if a steady state persists, the Faculty will face a deficit. 

Dean Iacobucci gave an overview of the law school budget for 2020-2021. While government grants and university support has remained flat, Dean Iacobucci explains that they are in fact declining, when inflation is taken into account. 


The Faculty of Law’s 2020-2021 revenue sources

Operating Grants: 

Dean Iacobucci said that government grants for the JD program have never been adequate, as it is allocated on a per capita basis and that the same amount is allocated per student regardless of program of study. He noted that it is far costlier to educate law students with the Faculty’s largest class sizes hovering around 70 students, compared to the undergraduate program in the Faculty of Arts and Science, which famously has class sizes exceeding a thousand students, holding lectures in Convocation Hall. 

University Fund and Transfers: 

Since U of T’s decentralized New Budget Model launched in 2007, the Faculty of Law has been a net benefactor of the University Fund, a central fund that redistributes funding from a pot that each university division pays into, and receives payments from. However, the amount redistributed to divisions does not grow with inflation rates, and applications for additional funding are not consistently approved. 


The law school adds recoveries to its budget when professors take extra unpaid leave, or works as an administrator in another university division. The law school gets compensated for professors’ time away in secondments. 


Prior to Dean Iacobucci’s tenure, the law school’s endowment was $64.3 million, it is now $84.5 million. Once pledges have been fully paid, that number will rise to $91.4 million, which equals an annual budget of approximately $2.2 million. 

Dean Iacobucci noted that the Faculty’s endowments pale when compared to leading U.S. law schools, but recognized the significant impact on the operating budget. He noted that there is “a long way to go, and it should be a priority going forward.” 


Dean Iacobucci further noted that tuition is the law school’s largest source of revenue, and that it is a “big wildcard,” largely dependent on the provincial government’s decisions. Additionally, Dean Iacobucci noted that the Faculty is part of a university-wide budgeting process and needs to respect that, especially since the Faculty faces financial pressures and its costs are subsidized by the University’s other divisions. 

Dean Iacobucci highlighted some of the law school’s efforts to mitigate the impact of budgetary challenges. He noted that while other law schools in Ontario have expanded their respective JD programs, U of T Law chose to grow the GPLLM program, which is “interesting and rewarding academically and professionally,” and has room for expansion that the JD program lacked. 

Dean Iacobucci also mentioned the increased fundraising efforts for financial aid, namely, the Campaign for Excellence without Barriers which now has an impact of over $53 million. The campaign was started by Dean Iacobucci at the beginning of his tenure as dean in 2015. 

He also mentioned other efforts to increase revenues, such as monetizing physical space. While the pandemic has affected the law school’s ability to rent out space, Dean Iacobucci notes that there is future potential especially as the law school buildings are significantly underused in the summer months. 


The Faculty of Law’s 2020-2021 expense plan 

Dean Iacobucci highlighted the growing expenditures in compensation, university-wide costs, and financial aid. The law school has a new arrangement with U of T Central Libraries for funding the Bora Laskin Law Library. 


Dean Iacobucci stated that neither he nor the faculty control the year over year increases in compensation for staff and faculty since it is centrally negotiated by unions and associations, with the University. He noted that there are instances where he has discretion over increases in faculty compensation, but those are rare. Additionally, Dean Iacobucci said “we’ve made some hard, heart wrenching decisions to reduce staffing,” where necessary, and that it has helped the bottom line. 

Dean Iacobucci also noted that the law school has been prudent in adding faculty members, having only hired three new faculty members in the past seven years, and that the school has had more retirements than appointments. He notes that while faculty is an academic priority, he would personally continue to be careful, but that decisions would be up to the next dean. 

“These efforts, jointly and separately, have let us continue on and expand in significant ways, despite recent challenges to our budget,” said Dean Iacobucci. 

University-Wide Costs:

Dean Iacobucci also stated that the Faculty has no control over the payment of university-wide costs, which include those incurred by Central Libraries and the President’s Office. University-wide costs are divided among divisions according to metrics such as faculty, staff, and student headcount, and square footage taken up by each division. Decreasing university-wide costs would also be undesirable, both academically and financially, as that would require a reduction in headcount. 

Financial Aid:

Additionally, the Faculty’s expenditure on financial aid has been growing, as a policy decision in recent years. While tuition has been growing at a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.49%, below the Bank of Canada’s target inflation rate of 2% as Dean Iacobucci remarked, the law school’s financial aid budget has grown at a CAGR of 4.53%, three times the tuition growth rate. 

The law school’s financial aid is funded through operating income and income from its aforementioned endowment. Dean Iacobucci said that he planned to allocate $0.30 for every $1 increase in tuition to financial aid, had the Ontario government not implemented the tuition cut and subsequent freeze. 

Dean Iacobucci presented the following numbers, stating that average net tuition has dropped by $1000 over a five-year period. “This, I hope, gives you a sense of how the change in macro numbers play out at the individual level,” he said. “Our neediest students are better off today than six years ago.”

JD Tuition and Financial Aid at the Faculty of Law 

Average Financial Support$9,209$13,126
Average Net Tuition$21,021$19,914
Largest Bursary$15,523$22,413
Smallest Net Tuition (excluding interest support)$14,717$10,627
*The 2019-2020 numbers were presented, as the 2020-2021 financial aid numbers have not yet been finalized. 

Dean Iacobucci closed his presentation by expressing regret that the law school exists in a world that is tuition-dependent, and that despite the challenges, the Faculty has made improvements with faculty appointments, co-curricular programming, and mental health programming. Additional developments include the Leadership Skills program, Rotman at Law courses, Black Future Lawyers, the Investor Protection Clinic, the Future of Law Lab, Schwartz Reisman fellowships, and expanded externship offerings. 

Dean Iacobucci then opened the floor to questions. Professor Mohammad Fadel first recognized the dean’s commitment to making a legal education affordable for students, then asked about the blended net tuition (accounting for those who do not receive financial aid), as well as the blended average salary of graduates. 

Dean Iacobucci replied that over the past few years there has been a 96% articling placement rate, and that data for salaries post-articling “gets murky.” He also mentioned the Faculty’s post-graduate debt relief fund, a unique program among Canada’s law schools. The fund is meant to support graduates if they remain in low-income situations, with debt forgiveness available. Dean Iacobucci noted that the law school budgets under $300,000 annually for this fund and does not exhaust this, even with graduates earning $80-90,000 annually who collect from the fund, and said that “the best way to learn more about how our graduates are doing is to look at those numbers, and the numbers suggest they’re doing well.” 

Professor David Schneiderman asked the dean about the cuts to the International Human Rights Program’s (IHRP) funding. Dean Iacobucci said that while the law school incurs costs for all programs, from space occupied to HR costs and more, the IHRP is unique in that it is funded almost exclusively by the faculty while other programs are primarily funded by outside sources. The IHRP is also unique in that it receives a large discretionary envelope from the faculty. 

“There was more freedom to cut further there, compared to other programs. But the IHRP is important to us, it matters to us, as other programs matter to us, so we treated them the same way as other programs,” said Dean Iacobucci. He emphasized that all programs were asked to cover their cost of space, and the IHRP’s budget as a whole was decreased by 8-9% to reflect that. The change was executed as a 37% decrease in cash dispensation, which led many to interpret the change as a 37% budget cut, said Dean Iacobucci. 

Annual SLS President’s Speech on Tuition

The budget and tuition meeting ended as per tradition with a speech from SLS’ President. Nanni acknowledged the importance of working through the numbers to gain a fuller understanding of the budget. He pointed out that tuition has been a common thread throughout the years, with each speech impelling the Dean to action. 

“As I reflect on this process, and in considering the limited movement this Faculty has made on the tuition front, I’ve decided that I do not have a call to action this year. Instead, on behalf of the student body, I’ve decided that the theme of my speech is disappointment,” said Nanni. 

Nanni listed the reasons for which students were disappointed, beginning with the Faculty’s lack of communicated compassion for the difficulties faced by students during the pandemic. “While the pandemic is hardly the Faculty’s fault, its response speaks volumes about how students are viewed and valued in this system,” said Nanni. 

Nanni said that tuition has not reflected the diminished quality of experiences in educational and student life that contribute to the value of a JD from U of T Law. He noted that even as students struggle with mental and physical health, financial losses, and stressors from general uncertainty, they continue to advance journals, clinics, and extracurriculars that contribute extraordinarily to U of T Law’s reputation. He stated that the law school has done little to recognize the value students contribute to the Faculty. 

Furthermore, “there has been no engagement of the precarious financial situations that students have found themselves in.” Nanni compared the Faculty to U of T’s Rotman School of Management, which gave MBA students a $1,000 “tech bursary” to alleviate the difficulties of studying from home. He also pointed to Western Law, which partnered with Torys LLP to raise $400,000 for a new bursary, with $150,000 set aside to help students financially impacted by COVID-19. 

“In recognition of the impacts of COVID-19, could our Faculty have done the same? Perhaps. […] There has been no acknowledgement of the uncertain economic market moving forward. When it comes to tuition specifically, there has been no communicated compassion nor understanding about the different ways in which this pandemic has deeply hurt students,” said Nanni. 

Nanni also cited disappointment in the Faculty’s continued reliance on the financial aid program as a justification for high tuition, characterizing it as a band-aid solution to a structural issue. 

He noted that the Faculty’s financial aid policy is not responsive to “general economic downturns” and that students whose parents have lost jobs due to COVID-19 do not fall within the typical financial aid program considerations. Nanni also highlighted the lack of consideration for additional costs incurred by students in preparing workspaces at home. 

“On a one-time basis, in recognition of the pandemic, the financial aid program had the opportunity to show students that the reality of their lived experiences through this unprecedented time is being taken seriously. But given the choice between responsive compassion and silence, the Faculty has chosen silence.” 

Finally, Nanni said that the uncertainty about future tuition has placed students in a difficult situation, and quoted from last year’s SLS President’s speech by Morgan Watkins (JD 2020): “from students’ perspectives, it’s disappointing that leaders — the universities, government, regulators, and employers — blame each other, say they can’t work together but also can’t do anything on their own, and that students feel stuck in the middle.” 

Nanni expressed disappointment at the Faculty’s lack of meaningful engagement with students on the tuition issue, especially during Dean Iacobucci’s tenure. “To borrow the sentiment [the Dean] has shared with the SLS at every one of these budget Faculty Councils: his hands are tied and he cannot bind future deans.”

“If the next Dean of this law school is in this Faculty Council meeting, please take the issue of tuition seriously. Please take students’ concerns seriously. Because the students at this faculty are a driving force for our success and reputation as an institution. By ignoring students on one of the issues that matters most to them, the Faculty of Law fails to show us the compassion and respect that should be expected from a world-renowned institution.” Nanni concluded by voicing hope of more productive conversations about tuition with the future dean.

In response, Dean Iacobucci said “I too, share your disappointment.” He had hoped that students would feel heard. He emphasized that the financial constraints faced by the law school are “not made up,” and “just facts of life.” 

“I’m disappointed in what you’re saying, that nothing’s changed, even though significant things have,” said Dean Iacobucci, “I’m also disappointed in some of the particulars you said, that were wrong-headed.” 

Dean Iacobucci emphasized that the law school could have done as Rotman did by distributing $1,000 to all students, but chooses to prioritize need-based funding. Furthermore, he added that the Faculty had set aside a financial aid contingency plan this year, but that financial need had not increased significantly. 

“We’ve worked to make the [financial aid] program more progressive, not less progressive,” said Dean Iacobucci, “I’m always looking for solutions, I’m sure the next dean will look for solutions.”

Dean Iacobucci also added that the Financial Aid Committee is responsive to changes in students’ parental income, and there is an appeals process. 2L StAG Representative Branden Cave said “that’s a very gross oversimplification of how the process works on the committee.” 

Conversations about changing financial circumstances “require all members of the committee to take different perspectives and come to terms with the lived experiences of students, it’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly,” added Professor Benjamin Alarie, Chair of the Financial Aid Committee. 

Professor Brian Langille noted that the meeting had gone past its allotted time, remarked that it was Dean Iacobucci’s last Faculty Council as dean, and expressed appreciation for his work, saying “Thanks for being our rock through the extraordinarily hard times. Thanks Ed.” 

Dean Iacobucci adjourned the meeting. There was a chorus of thanks as participants left the Zoom call, while “dissent” was said by an unidentified speaker.  

Read about last year’s Faculty Council discussion on budget and tuition, and the details of the 2018 Faculty Council discussion

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