Editorial: Start saving your pennies, gang!

For as long as we can remember, tuition consultation at the University of Calgary has been fairly routine. Every December, university administration has a quick discussion with the Students’ Union, asks them how much they’d like to pay and then raises tuition as much as they can. Usually it’s a drop in the bucket, an extra five per cent or so matching inflation. This year, it looks to be much, much worse.

The current plan, revealed by the SU in Students’ Legislative Council on Tuesday, has three parts. Base tuition is slated to go up 1.5 per cent, the rate of inflation, the most that tuition can be legally raised according to the Post-Secondary Learning Act. In addition, the university is proposing a compulsory fee, estimated to be around $500, that will be levied upon all students. Last, and certainly not least, the university is adopting a differential tuition scheme for professional degrees, similar to that of the University of Alberta — raising annual fees approximately 40 per cent for business and engineering, $2,000 for law and $4,000 for medicine.

Administration’s plan for tuition increases would be merely deplorable if not for a few more factors. First and foremost is the timing. Tuition consultation is typically completed mid-December. That allows institutions to plan their budgets and submit them to the province in a timely fashion, but also allows students to come up with a plan. This year, the Board of Governors will vote on this matter, and it’ll likely pass, on April 16 — Bermuda Shorts Day. Not only will the average U of C student be asked to pony up an extra $600 per year (1.5 per cent plus the $500 fee), if not more, they will have four months fewer to figure out how to get that money.

Not shockingly, the move has the SU fuming. At the weekly SLC meeting, president Charlotte Kingston said that university’s proposed hike will “screw their students a little harder” next year. Several other elected officials remarked on the matter, with vice-president external Kay She saying that if students should get mad about anything, it’s this. Both noted that the university has a projected deficit for next year that’s roughly half that of the University of Alberta yet they’re planning for a larger tuition hike. Additionally, the U of A’s extra revenue will partially go to the various faculties, while the U of C will funnel the vast majority towards their central administrative deficit, even while continuing to cut jobs. In other words, students will be paying much, much more for the same sub-standard education.

So what can be done about this outrageously awful proposal? Students have a few options. Base tuition is legally tied to the rate of inflation and the institutions that wish to raise professional program fees by more than that are required to get permission from the province to do so. In addition, the law surrounding compulsory fees is wonderfully vague. Students can and should communicate their disgust with the proposal to their MLAs and Alberta’s Advanced Education minister, Doug Horner, so that the province doesn’t stand idly by and let the cost of education be passed onto us. More importantly, U of C provost Alan Harrison will be part of the SLC meeting on Tuesday, February 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the MacEwan Student Centre council chambers. Every single student that feels strongly about their education should be there.

Fees go up, it’s a fact of life. However, the U of C’s decision to essentially pass the responsibility to balance their books directly to students is ludicrous. It’s time for students to take a stand. Get the government involved and tell them how much this will disrupt your education. Most importantly, come to SLC on February 2 and tell Alan Harrison that students will not take this lying down.

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