By Rob South
Will tuition be raised again this year? If so, by how much? Or will tuition remain stable for the first time in over two decades?
With the tuition decision now set for the Dec. 9 Board of Governors meeting, consultation between administration and student leaders is starting to pick up, though a few questions remain unanswered.
Going into Tuesday’s Student Legislative Council meeting, one question concerned the Students’ Union strategy towards tuition consultation this year. Although discussion at SLC varied from questions of whether quality of education can be maintained to suggestions on how to gauge student opinion to the stating of electoral mandates, with no votes on the issue taken, SU Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek felt a clear mandate arose from the meeting.
"I feel it is the responsibility of the SU to clearly articulate to the tuition consultation committee, the Planning and Finance Committee and BoG, the impact their decisions will have on students at the University of Calgary," said Wojtaszek. "Further, we want to make certain the university is accountable to all stakeholders, especially students, as to where all new revenues go."
This year’s university budget has a definite need for increased revenues according to U of C VP Finance Keith Winter. Reasons why the university is asking for a tuition increase include a projected $6.7 million increase in utility costs, a $10.6 million increase in salary costs based on a three per cent plus merit increase for faculty, and other inflationary costs such as the rising price of library journals.
"All the things people would like us to do at the university, we do not have enough money to do," said Winter.
However, despite a current projected budget shortfall of $14.1 million, Winter said the university will not ask for a maximum tuition increase–which would bring in an additional $6.4 million.
"We realize students have bills to pay too," said Winter.
Wojtaszek acknowledges that the university does have a case in asking for an increase, but that does not mean he has conceded an increase will occur.
"You cannot look at a part of the SU tuition consultation process separate from other parts of the SU strategy," said Wojtazsek. "I would point to the Council of Alberta University Students asking the province for a two per cent tuition freeze based on the model Ontario uses."
The question of who is responsible for tuition increases has a fluid answer for Wojtazsek, depending on the level of funding the U of C receives from the Alberta government. Right now Wojtazsek believes the government is responsible because he feels the U of C is underfunded.
Currently, both the SU and administration are waiting to see if the province’s funding review for post-secondary education will table its final report soon. Both organizations are hoping the report brings more funding for the U of C.