With another round of maximum tuition hikes on the way, combined with the latest news of university-wide budget cuts, undergrads should be feeling in a fairly un-agreeable mood as of late. I mean honestly, sometimes it's all enough to make you want to slam your hand in a waffle iron. Why-oh-why does it seem that our beloved university can never get its act together and just simply stop screwing the students? Do they really hate us all this much? Is the administration completely incapable of balancing a simple budget without having to resort to budget cuts and tuition increases every year?!
To answer this question, I went straight to the official source, the man who is the pen on the university budget each year: the Vice-President of Finance and Services Mike McAdam. What he told me (and what I have since learned through my membership on The University Budget Committee) is that essentially the university is stuck with inflationary costs every year which significantly outweigh increased funding from the province. The main cost drivers are the salaries of staff and faculty (which are collectively bargained according to national and international standards), and rising energy costs. The University has just two main sources of revenue from which to run its core operations: a base funding grant from the province, and tuition. Since 1993 funding from the province has decreased 250 per cent while tuition rates have gone up 283 per cent. Do you see the pattern emerging here? Tuition is going up because government increases have been either too small to match new costs or have been simply non-existent.
So why are we getting screwed? Because the government thought it looked better to have the provincial debt downloaded onto your back in the form of loans (student or otherwise) then to keep it on their books. However, there is now a glimmer of hope now that the provincial debt is gone, and there is a massive amount of money flowing into the government from resource revenue. If at any time we were to get the money we needed in order to build a truly world class institution of the highest educational quality and parallel low tuition barriers, it would now.
The recently called provincial election allows us as students to shift though the various political party platforms and decide which one would make this dream a reality. In order to nail this point home and in recognition of the importance of the election the Students' Union is committing to ambitious campaign of educational awareness for the final week of the recently called provincial election. This is going to include a provincial and city wide newspaper, radio, and television commercial campaign, and an on campus string of events called "Political Action Week". There will be more info on this to come, however for now suffice it to say that I certainly hope you the reader can understand that the problems we face as students are the symptoms of a very sick, underfunded post-secondary education system. This has to change, and it starts with awareness, and it ends with a vote.
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