Students can expect at least a 1.5 per cent increase in tuition next year after the University of Calgary Board of Governors voted to approve the maximum amount under the government's current provincial tuition fee policy, which ties increases to the consumer price index.
Before the vote student representative Pam Weatherbee commented that any tuition hikes were inappropriate based on the university's poor scores in the National Survey of Student Engagement, a tool used for measuring student satisfaction and engagement at post-secondary. The two undergraduate student members of the board, including Students' Union president Charlotte Kingston, voted against the hike.
"While we anticipated the current 1.5 per cent increase, students are far from finished advocating for an accessible and affordable post-secondary education system here in Alberta," said Kingston.
"I can't recall a time when the Students' Union representatives on the Board of Governors voted in favour of an increase, so I can't say I was surprised that it happened on this occasion," said Alan Harrison, provost and VP academic at the University of Calgary.
Graduate Students' Association president and board member Veronique Dorais abstained from the tuition vote saying that the Graduate Representative Council advised her they felt it was unfair to vote on only half of a possible tuition increase.
"They felt it wasn't fair to vote either for or against the increase knowing what might be coming up in April, with the market modifiers and the program fees," said Dorais. "They felt like they didn't have enough information to make a decision at that point in time, so the majority voted that I should just abstain from voting."
"They were uncomfortable with the way the motion had been split into two . . . even though it all falls under the same jurisdiction," said Dorais.
Harrison said that with the larger increase having such an impact on the budget it made more sense to vote on the 1.5 per cent across the board increase first.
"The 1.5 per cent is a small increase and we've had adequate consultation with the Students' Union and the graduate students," said Harrison. "We normally take that sort of a recommendation to the board in either January or February, and that's what we did this year."
Though the 1.5 per cent increase was expected by students, it is only the first of two possible increases. The Alberta government has allowed post-secondary institutions to put forward proposals for market modification within certain professional programs such as law, business and engineering. If the university's proposals are accepted by the government the Board of Governors will be voting on these increases at the next board meeting in April.
With this first tuition increase now approved students will wait to hear how much more tuition will be going up based on the government's decision regarding market modification and proposed large hikes to non-instructional fees, projected at around $500. These compulsory fees were addressed by the SU which introduced an amendment to the future motion on tuition increases. The SU's proposal called for any future mandatory non-program fees levied on students to be approved by a university administered student referendum. This proposal was tabled by the Board of Governors to be addressed at the April meeting.
"This approach would ensure that students have a say in what they are willing to pay [by] way of non-academic fees," said Kingston.
see 1.5%Tuition increase approved, page 7
"Furthermore, it would also ensure the university is not capable of introducing astronomical fees at students' expense in an effort to address budget shortfalls due to poor fiscal management."
The SU plans to wait for a decision from Advanced Education and Technology Minister Doug Horner on the university's tuition proposals.
"We have firmly advocated to the minister to reject this proposal which would unfairly prevent many lower income students from continuing their education or pursuing a professional career of their choice," Kingston explained. "Once the minister has made his decision we will determine how to best address the proposed increases."