Editorial: Tuition uncertainty drags on…

The ongoing saga of Alberta tuition took another odd turn this past week, as budget meetings scheduled to approve the university’s proposal seems to be shelved until the end of the academic year.

Key committee meetings leading up to the University of Calgary’s budget approval vote have reportedly been postponed. The bump of these U of C meetings may result in the April 12 board of governors meeting being re-scheduled, yet again, likely to sometime in May or June.

In a sense, a postponement of the meetings seems like great news. Despite having some inkling of their financial predicament since early fall, U of C administration has seemingly only come up with their present plan. Moving the meeting means instead of voting on a budget framework relying on compulsory fees and market modifiers to balance the books when they haven’t even been okayed by the province, the board of governors will likely vote on a real budget based on real, government-approved numbers. Such a vote would only occur after the province announces its stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers, which Students’ Union president Charlotte Kingston indicated in Students’ Legislative Council this week would likely happen in mid-April.

The unfortunate side effect of the meetings being moved is that continuing and incoming students won’t have any idea what school is gonna cost them until five or six months later than they usually would, although the added pinch on continuing students might only be $500. This would especially hinder students entering programs potentially facing market modifiers, as they could see a significant bump in tuition and have to scramble to find that money over the summer. In fact, if budgets aren’t approved until June, these new students might not even know how much their classes will cost as they’re registering for them.

As much as the finger of blame can be pointed at U of C administration for the handling of the tuition mess, at least as much blame should be pointed at the provincial government. The scheduling of the province’s budget announcement for February completely changed the timeline for the universities and left them playing budgetary catch-up– particularly when post-secondary funding was less than expected– and the lack of leadership shown by advanced education and technology minister Doug Horner in taking an early, definitive stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers has left students, administrators and everyone else playing the waiting game.

The U of C has been in the public relations toilet as of late, with allegations that an engineering professor misused research funds being the latest in a line of negative stories about the school. That said, administration’s hands have been tied by the provincial government and as far as the tuition debacle goes, they might not be entirely to blame. The university can only plan as much as the province allows them to. When the province doesn’t even have the foresight to give them the tools to do the job properly, they’re already set up for failure. When the university fails to plan, how can any of its students possibly succeed?

Correction:

An earlier version of this editorial reported that the University of Alberta budget meeting had been postponed. The Gauntlet has since been informed by U of A administration that this was not the case and that the tuition meeting will take place, as originally scheduled, on Fri., March 26. The Gauntlet apologizes for this error and any confusion it may have caused.

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