The almighty dollar may soon play an almighty role in student recruitment at the University of Calgary.
For the last year the U of C University Enrolment Policy Committee has discussed the development of an "enrolment sensitive" budgeting scheme that could potentially throw faculties into conflict over student recruitment.
The UEPC report states that, "In the prevailing general environment of entrepreneurship and market dominance in decision-making, the Fee-Based Budget System is expected to stimulate competition amongst disciplines within the University and in the Community at large for students which in turn is expected to stimulate positive initiatives." More simply put, faculties that reach or exceed a set goal for first-year student enrolment will receive more money than other faculties that do not reach their enrolment quotas.
Although the fee-based budget system may stimulate competition between faculties, Students' Union representatives are concerned it may also distort the criteria that the enrolment committee uses to determine a faculty's worth to the university.
"[An FBBS] will allocate money according to course popularity," said SU Vice-President Academic Nic Porco. "Soon faculties will teach courses for the sake of teaching courses."
Porco added that the FBBS would force faculties to develop courses that are more attractive to students in order to increase enrolment and could lead to the proliferation of academically unsound courses. Faculties and departments such as Management and Computer Sciences would receive more money, and consequently, higher quality services than faculties with lower enrolment.
"The recommendations in this report are not conducive to overall institutional goals and counterproductive to the pursuit of a better university," said Porco. "If the university adopts this model, differential tuition fees and privatization of faculties may not be far off."
U of C VP Academic Ronald Bond disagreed and pointed out the advantages to an FBBS.
"Students would benefit, IF [sic] the [FBBS] is eventually adopted, by being in units where resources and the teaching programs and support services dependant on them are more clearly aligned with the actual enrolments in the units," he said.
Bond added that the FBBS will not lead to the marginalization of students in the more specialized but lesser attended subjects or decreases in the quality of education in these subjects.
"We will have to put systems in place to ensure that we reduce or eliminate academically-problematic consequences of budgeting arrangements that allow some of the tuition fee revenue from course enrolees to flow back to the units that generate the enrolments," he explained.
Porco expressed further concerns that the FBBS proposal was not properly brought to students' attention.
"The university held two town halls in order to try to get feedback from the community," he said. "Attendance was four people, from the General Faculties Council of '99, for the two town halls."
"It's true students were not members of the Enrolment Policy Committee when it did the analysis that resulted in the report, but we are now taking steps to rectify that," explained Bond. He added that the university will ask both the SU President and the President of the Graduate Students' Association to join the Enrolment Policy Committee.
According to Porco, implementation of the FBBS may be less than three years away with differential tuition to follow in two years.