Louie Villanueva

Market modifier proposals revealed via freedom of information request

By Fabian Mayer, June 11 2015 —

New documents regarding market modifiers came to light last week after the Metro newspaper filed a freedom of information request. Three market modifier tuition hikes at the University of Calgary were approved by the PC government in December of last year. All 26 of the proposals by the province’s post-secondary institutions are now publicly available.

The university claims a version of the proposals have been available online since December. But the SU said that despite repeated requests, it did not see the official proposals before they were submitted to the government. 

The U of C’s proposal to raise tuition for engineering, law and MBA programs focused on the financial need for a tuition hike, arguing the U of C needed to raise tuition beyond the inflation-tied cap on fee increases in order to keep pace with its competitors.

Students’ Union vice-president external Romy Garrido disagrees with that logic.

“Increasing tuition at our university could move us up in the rankings of the most expensive universities,” Garrido said. “Does that necessarily mean that we have higher quality programs? Absolutely not.”

The proposal stated that roughly 30 per cent of the additional funds would go to hiring new faculty, 30 per cent would go to administrative costs and the remainder would be split between scholarships, student success initiatives and an innovation fund. Garrido isn’t convinced by the university’s plans.

“Forty-five per cent of the Haskayne market modifier is still unaccounted for,” Garrido said. “Even though the proposals say they’re going to go to different areas just looking at past precedent, we can’t quite say where it would go.”

Engineering Students’ Society (ESS) president Amy Zell is hopeful the money will be spent responsibly.

“I have already been a part of conversations with [Dean] Bill Rosehart regarding exactly how the money is going to be spent for the upcoming year, and I’ve been able to ensure it’s the amount agreed upon in the proposal,” Zell said.

The proposal claims that “extensive consultation” took place with students regarding the university’s plans. Garrido disputes this, pointing out that over 80 per cent of engineering students surveyed by the ESS did not approve of the modifier.

“Even though they met with students, the consultation wasn’t taken into account,” Garrido said. “The term consultation is defined differently from the administration’s point of view and our point of view.”

The proposal stated that faculty met with engineering students eight times to discuss the market modifier. Zell is happy with how the ESS handled the consultation process. 

“I feel our consultation was constructive and represented the aggregate student interest, even if it wasn’t reflected in the official proposal,” Zell said.

Garrido said the new minister of advanced education, Lori Sigurdson, recently met with student leaders. The NDP government is currently working on its campaign promise to roll back market modifiers.

“Based on what she said, something is in the works. We don’t know what it is yet so we’re hopeful, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Garrido said.

The U of C approved tuition for the 2015–16 academic year on May 1. The $170 per course increase is a near 30 per cent hike. The new fees will be implemented for incoming students starting this fall. Garrido hopes the government will find a way to repeal the increase.

“Our main goal is that this fall no student has to pay the most recently approved proposals,” Garrido said.

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