University budget approved by BOG

Tuition at the University of Calgary is going up by about $18 a semester for a full course load starting May 1, as part of the upcoming year’s budget– approved Feb. 28 by the school’s board of governors.

The increase, equal to 0.35 per cent, is the maximum allowed under provincial regulations and tied to the inflation rate. The newly-approved $1.09 billion budget, up by about 1.6 per cent from last year, is described by senior university administration as “sustainable” and “balanced.”

Students’ Union president Lauren Webber voted against the tuition increase. She said an increase of $18 isn’t that much, but was opposed to any increase in addition to the others student already face next year.

“The tuition increase this year was hidden by other means underneath the general non-program fee and the market modifiers,” said Webber. “I just felt like with all of it, why are they asking for another increase when they’ve already had a huge one with other means?”

“This is a very modest increase compared to most years and we believe it’s affordable for our students,” said provost and vice-president academic Alan Harrison in a press release.

The U of C forecast a $6.6 million shortfall in 2012-13 with a $22 million deficit the year after– less than half last year’s projected forecast of $47.5 million.

“That deficit is something we were projecting out for future years and like any projection we were using assumptions at the time and some of those assumptions have changed as we get better information,” said U of C vice-president finance and services Jonathan Gebert.

Gebert said the deficit was decreased through several areas including about $5 million in “lights on” funding from the provincial government to pay for utilities and upkeep for new facilities not yet fully operational.

“We increased some students through retention, we had a tuition increase, we got some money from the government and we cut some of our spending,” Gebert said. “So it’s a multitude of things across the organization.”

The university has also set aside $30 million in contingency funds, which it hopes will grow to $50 million by this time next year.

At the same time, a federal budget tabled last month showed the government needs millions of dollars to keep its student loans progam running.

According to the Canadian University Press, the government requires $149.5 million in order to write off more than 60,000 debts for unrecoverable student loans. An additional $311.2 million is needed to meet increasing demand for federal loans.

Second-year biology student Nacim Ghandour said he thinks loans are a big part of a student’s life.

“Tuition is pretty expensive and I don’t see it getting better for a while,” Ghandour said. “I don’t think you’d see half these students here, if there weren’t student loans.”

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