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the Gauntlet

Tuition--it's time for a new strategy

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The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

- Samuel Johnson, British writer, Lexicographer

Three years ago my university career began at The Haskayne School of Business. Three years ago, I encountered my first tuition protester. Much has changed in my three years. My precocious campus beginnings humbled by the surroundings of intellectual professors and an intellectual community. My convictions, influenced by our campus, flip flop between competing values--my views and my conception of self sometimes reduced to a fog. Yet one thing seems to have not changed--growing ever stagnant in its relentless platitudes and unwavering protest; approaching the limit of nonsense, the tuition fight seems stuck in the awkward stage of pre- pubescence. It continually cries wolf with plenty of people around but precious few who still care to listen.

Painting those who protest in a bad light requires diplomacy. Historically, protesters take on causes that matter, those they hold dear, and they institute change. To attack a protester is analogous to biting the hand that feeds you, but at least rhetorically, many of us are still famished. We are quick to think of tuition protesters as magnanimous, selfless, fighting the good fight so we don't have to. Unfortunately, their defiant energy eludes any real progress.

Tuition protesters fight adamantly, each cry a testament to their cause. As you walk the campus they may be marching, they may be delivering a speech or often camping out--fittingly in protest--their energy presupposed as the impetus for change. Presumably, they would have made progress, yet their record suggests otherwise. Tuition has steadily increased since I began university three years ago, and has increased steadily since the university's birth more than 37 years ago.

It is fair to say that tuition is a lost cause, and it is time to look elsewhere for our solution.

Sometimes our grand ideas grow beyond our own capacity to deal with them. Plaguing the tuition protesters is a bad case of self-delusion. Tuition protesters appear altruistic, however the conclusion materializes that they are also hopeless optimists. In many ways, their efforts in light of insurmountable adversity should be lauded, but it is time for a shift of strategy.

The solution lies in a new approach. One that calls for acceptance of the likelihood for rising tuition over time and a need for a fresh start. Beginning with an increased emphasis for high school students who are employed to tuck their money away, perhaps in a savings account with a government incentive associated with it. Increased programs on campus to help current students get jobs over the summer that pay well, well enough to support their education. Finally, compromise. However detestable it may seems, students may have to take two or three classes at a time, and work while in school hopefully in this process avoiding the burden of student loans.

With acceptance we gain insight. We lose the glazed over fervor and we realize we must channel our energies more effectively. We escape the meandering cause of tuition costs spiraling out of control and we look at simply being able to keep up with it. If students could earn a more substantial income, and were educated at younger ages about the importance of saving for post-secondary, the result may be surprising.

If we listen to history as our teacher we can conclude tuition increases are but a fait accompli. We are not giving up, we are only becoming more efficient. Bloated bureaucracies such as our university lack the quintessential feature of corporations profit motive. Without the motivation to lower costs they predictably run a system whose prices will rise. Their inefficiency is obvious and most likely irreparable ours however shouldn't be.

arramsay@ucalgary.ca

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Comments

Bloated bureaucracy? Come to our department of biological sciences and view what we have for bureaucracy. Along the way note the first year labs we have which have "wasted money" on such fine features as rotting walls, leaking ceilings, asbestos floor tiles and lack of new teaching equipment - oh yes, note the loss of two technicians to set up labs for first year students out of a pool of 9.

Here is a reality check. A university is a service not a business. It is not expected to make a profit but to provide an education so that society as a whole will be better in the future. Trimming the fat has been done over the past three years worth of cuts - add into that the 20 percent expected over the next 4 and we are hacking off flesh.

I agree with teaching high school students to save for any post-secondary education and any services (say Career Services) which helps students to find good-paying summer jobs. What I don't agree with in this article is the fact we might have to "comprimise" and work while in school. I know from personal experience, working while learning, negatively impacts my education. Why not let university be a time when young people can concentrate academically and take full advantage of this time.

I don't think every student should get a free ride, but they should not have to work while in school to make ends meet.

I read David Bininda's comments regarding Adam's article and I feel he missed the point Adam was trying to make. The statement "Bloated bureaucracy" implies the University as a whole and not every particular "fiefdom" in every faculty. All enlightened economists know that public sector organizations run less efficiently than the private sector. If the University was run as efficiently as it could, pet projects such as the "downtown campus" would have never been undertaken. This is the kind of foolery Adam is alluding to. In an era of cutbacks there still seems to be enough pork for this kind of crap.

You've missed the point entirely.

The main issue here isn't just the cost of tuition, but the funding the province gives the university.

Even with maximum increases, the university can't keep up with rising costs.

It is, indeed, time for a new strategy. But telling students to suck it up and live with the status quo is way off.

There is a reason tuition is rising while quality at U of C is dropping: current provincial funding levels.

Any "new strategy" must still recognize this and aim to affect change. More than anything else, the university needs the money to operate, and the province is the only place to get it. Tuition is such a small part of the equation it's almost an afterthought.

An optimist would suggest that the problem could be solved on November 22. But if an optimist were to say that, and actually believe it to be a realistic possibility, others might think that optimist was on opiates.

Ahhhh, James. My thoughts exactly.


It's refreshing to have a role model come out of retirement to enlighten the wayward Gauntleteers of today. Good points.