Tuition increase imminent

By Ruth Davenport

While University of Calgary students slept in and studied during reading days, their tuition crept one step closer to an increase.

At the Nov. 14 meeting of the Planning and Finance Committee, a 3.7 per cent increase for 2002/03
tuition fees was approved for recommendation to the Board of Governors despite contrary input from student representatives.

"The sense I got was that the PFC members believed the university needed the money," said Students’ Union President Barb Wright. "I also think the members weren’t very receptive to the idea that there shouldn’t be any tuition increase and that the proposed increase was too high."

U of C Vice-President of Finance and Services Keith Winter explained that the 3.7 per cent increase was recommended to the PFC after careful consideration by senior university administrators.

"The rationale for choosing the number was bearing in mind the inflationary increase, some consideration of the maximum that we could go to and some consideration of the needs that students have for accessibility," said Winter. "We’re trying to balance these off. We don’t dump all this on the lap of students."

Wright expressed dissatisfaction with the approved increase, stating that students would not see any benefits of the revenue generated by the increase.

"The $3.1 million generated by the increase isn’t going to do anything to improve the education that we’re receiving," she said. "I think it’ll go into the general operating branch of the university and it’s going to be swallowed up by everything else that is funded out of that base operating budget."

Winter pointed out that due to the declining value of U of C investments following September 11, the university is facing a $7 million budget shortfall. While he agreed that students are in a difficult position, he pointed out that administrators have their concerns as well.

"We have a serious problem," he said. "I have as much sympathy for students as I could ever have, but my job and the university’s job is to ensure the quality of the degree we offer is the best it can be."

Winter also pointed out that the student representatives were offered the opportunity to direct a portion of the increase but declined.

"I asked, if we put it up one per cent higher than inflation, what would you like us to do with that?" explained Winter. "We asked the SU for suggestions and the SLC [Student’s Legislative Council] decided they didn’t want to propose that we direct it in any particular direction. We wanted to focus on things that were good for students so they could see where their tuition was going."

Wright, however, countered that although the SU representatives intended to turn down the proposal, they were never given the opportunity.

"We didn’t think we should have to tell [university administrators] to put the money towards student-focused issues," she said. "And Dr. Winter came back to our final tuition meeting saying there would be no directed increase."

Wright will be given the opportunity to argue the student case to the BoG at the Nov. 30 meeting.

"I’m trying to be very clear on why the increase is too much and why the university needs to stop looking to students to make up for their budgetary shortfalls," she explained.

Winter, however, pointed out that the alternative revenue source is, if anything, less forthcoming.

"There’s only two sources of money in this business," he said. "One is the government grant and the other is tuition. So if we were to lower tuition, the government would have to give us more money."

The final tuition increase will be approved at the Nov. 30 BoG meeting. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Blue Room of the Dining Centre.

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