UBC law school fees expected to triple
by Christine Mingie
Tuition fees at UBC’s Faculty of Law will increase almost 300 per cent to $9,000 by 2004. The fee increase is part of a proposed plan to phase in tuition increases over the next few years to bring the faculty’s tuition in line with peer law schools across Canada. The first phase, slated to take effect in September 2002, will see fees increase 65 per cent for first-year law students, from $3,039 to $5,000. Fees for returning students will increase 33 per cent to $4,042.
The provincial government recently lifted a six-year freeze on university tuition fees and restored the autonomy to determine tuition rates to the university’s Board of Governors. During the tuition freeze, UBC’s undergraduate fees had fallen behind the national average by approximately $1,400. UBC’s law school tuition had fallen behind the national law school average by about $3,000.
Faculty and students at UBC have expressed concern that increased tuition would negatively affect accessibility by making law school prohibitively expensive for some students. To partially combat this, under the phased plan, 20 per cent of tuition increases would be allocated to student financial support in the first year.
Dr. Neil Guppy, Associate Vice President, UBC Academic Programs, said that UBC has a commitment to ensure access to academically qualified students regardless of financial ability. “We want to admit the best qualified students we can attract, and ability to pay should not limit access,” he said. Under a draft proposal being prepared at the university, most of the differential funds (the difference between law school tuition and general undergraduate tuition levels) collected from the increase will be dedicated to the Faculty of Law.
The increases at UBC are the latest in a series of law school increases across the country. Fees at Queen’s University will increase to $10,663 in 2004, up from $7,792. The University of Alberta law students will pay $9,000 in 2004, up from $4,483 if proposals for increases are approved there. The University of Toronto’s law school is the most expensive; in 2004 fees will be $16,000, up from $12,000 this year. Within five years, tuition at U of T will increase to $22,000.
Elsewhere, law school tuition fees stand at $5,196 (University of Calgary), $5,000 (University of Manitoba), $8,700 (Osgoode Hall), $8,000 (University of Ottawa), $6,000 (Dalhousie). The University of Victoria is in the process of determining tuition increases but no concrete plans have been made public.
Louis Charette, Chair of the CBA Young Lawyer’s Conference, said the cost of tuition may become a barrier to legal education for students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. “This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on those students who would have wanted to pursue law but also on the legal profession, as representation and diversity are decreased,” he said. Mr. Charette said that the cost of pursuing a legal education may force a number of students to work more hours in paying jobs while at law school.
“Increased debt will also have an impact on career choices,” he said. “Students with considerable debts will more likely choose to work in jobs or in Canadian cities where salaries are higher.” As a result, access to legal services may be reduced in smaller communities if fewer lawyers practise in these areas because of heavy debt loads. Mr. Charette predicted that the legal profession may suffer a legal brain drain as students seek more lucrative positions outside Canada to pay off law school debts.
UBC’s Board of Governors has approved the first phase of proposed tuition increases for 2002-2003. The Board is expected to approve the final phase to take effect 2004, by the end of the school term.
Christine Mingie is a second year law student at UBC and a member of the BarTalk Editorial Board.
This article was published in the April 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.