Opinions

Letter: Tuition response defended

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Editor, the Gauntlet:

[re: "SU should have stood firm," editorial and "SU prepares for tuition consultation," Katy Anderson, Oct. 18 Gauntlet]

In the October 18th edition of the Gauntlet, the issue of tuition consultations and the Students' Union's involvement was brought to the forefront with the editorial and a news article. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the Students' Union's approach to tuition consultations this year.

Every year, the SU and the University of Calgary administration embark on the tuition journey we refer to as "tuition consultation." And every year, with the only recent exception occurring through the Alberta Government's mandated tuition freeze, tuition increases--usually at the maximum allowed amount.

Why? Because every year as the cost of running a university continues to increase, the university requires more money to simply maintain status quo. Status quo services, status quo classroom maintenance, a status quo student experience. To maintain the status quo, revenue must come from somewhere and unfortunately, the easy solution is to raise tuition. Furthermore, without a substantial increase from government, the university will continue to raise tuition.

In the past, our SU presidents have marched into the boardroom with a passionate and fact-filled presentation on the true costs of being a student and the need to not increase tuition. The Board of Governors listened, empathized, and voted for a tuition increase. Next our students brought drums outside of the board room, gathered by the hundreds, and vocally opposed a tuition increase. The board still increased tuition.

Why are we taking a different approach this year? We believe the board, and university administration wish to assist students throughout our university careers. They want to ensure a high cost-benefit ratio for students. But without increasing tuition, there is a fear that our quality of education and quality of learning would deteriorate.

The SU is posing an alternative; a win-win solution. If the Board believes they must increase tuition at its maximum allowed amount, then the SU wants to ensure students feel the impact of this increase in revenue. We want to ensure our quality of education and our quality of teaching not only maintains status quo, but increases dramatically. We want to ensure current student issues are addressed appropriately, and the right solutions are financed adequately. We want to work with the university to hold them accountable to these reasonable requests, instead of spending my time developing a "vote no to tuition increase" strategy that will likely fail, as it has in the past.

Tuition is a problem, but merely one component in the affordability battle. The SU continues to meet with minister of advanced education and technology Doug Horner, to discuss the student financial aid program and encourage government to increase their contribution to the university budget. We continue to lobby the federal government to maintain or replace the Millennium Scholarship Program. We are making serious headway in the affordable housing crisis, and we're trying to work with the bookstore and other universities to address the cost of text books.

As President of the SU, I have been given the mandate to serve and represent the undergraduate students at the U of C. To better serve you, I am, along with my colleagues, seeking genuine improvements in quality and affordability.

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