By Scott Strasser, January 10 2017 —
The University of Calgary Board of Governors approved a series of fee changes for the 2017–18 academic year at their meeting on Dec. 16.
The board approved a 12 per cent decrease for the cost of living in four-bedroom suites in Cascade, Glacier and Olympus Halls, a three per cent increase for the residence student meal plan and minor monthly parking rate changes for a handful of lots on campus.
The board also approved tuition fees for next year. But because the Alberta New Democratic Party government extended the tuition freeze by one year in October, tuition fees will stay the same for U of C students in 2017–18.
U of C director of ancillary services Shane Royal said the 12 per cent decrease in cost for four-bedroom suites was based on the U of C’s analysis of the Calgary rental market. Due to Alberta’s economic downturn, the city’s rental market has seen high vacancy rates in recent years.
“Looking at where the marketplace is in Calgary and what the alternatives are for individuals, we recognized the value proposition for students for the four-bedroom [units] was out of line with what the market is,” Royal said “We did that to adjust it so that what the students would pay for the four-bedroom would be more consistent with what they’d pay in the marketplace around Calgary.”
Rates for living in a four-bedroom suite in Glacier or Olympus are currently $7,050 for September to April, while Cascade is currently set at $6,533. Once the new rates go into effect on May 1, living in a four-bedroom suite in Glacier or Olympus Hall will cost $6,204 per academic year, while living in Cascade will cost $5,750.
According to Students’ Union president Stephan Guscott, who sits on the Board of Governors, the 12 per cent cost decrease marks the first time residence fees have gone down at the U of C — instead of up — in recent memory.
“It’s fantastic that the university has listened to students’ concerns with the cost of residence and either decreased or frozen residence rates in response,” Guscott said in a statement. “This will ensure students, especially upper-year students, will have a competitive choice of housing to live on campus next year.”
While the U of C saw record numbers of first-year students living in residence this year, upper-year residence buildings struggled to be filled. According to Royal, roughly 15 per cent of upper-year residence units at the U of C were vacant this year. Vacancies for four-bedroom suites were at 29 per cent.
“That’s because there are more options for students in the [Calgary] marketplace,” Royal said.
Last summer, residence services offered a $500 credit program to students who could successfully convince a friend to live in upper-year residence buildings, but the referral program failed to garner interest.
For the three per cent increase to the meal plan, Board of Governors members cited the growing cost of food due to annual inflation and the increased cost of labour due to a higher minimum wage as factors justifying the increase.
“If we don’t adjust our prices based on some of those changes, their purchasing power is eroded,” Royal said. “If we didn’t increase the price, it just means students can buy less.”
The U of C meal plan is mandatory for first- and second-year residence students living in Kananaskis Hall, Rundle Hall or Yamnuska Hall. The increase will go into effect on May 1.
The only parking fee changes the Board of Governors approved on Dec. 16 include a $3 monthly increase for faculty members who park in the Teaching, Research and Wellness building at the Foothills campus and $7 monthly increases for surface lots 2, 18, 25, 47 and 54.
The parking rate changes will go into effect on April 1.
At the Dec. 16 meeting, the Board of Governors also approved maintaining a $1.5 million reserve for copyright-related purposes, the U of C’s long range development plan, fees for three incoming certificate programs and continuing the Quality Money program with the SU through 2021.