Tuition rates keep on rising

By Michael Grondin

The price to be a student in Alberta is on the rise. Tuition and student fees at the University of Calgary have a proposed increase of almost 4.5 per cent while awards, bursaries and scholarships are not increasing at the same rate. 

Tuition has a proposed 2.15 per cent increase in Alberta and a $150 increase per student to the 
U of C student services fee, a mandatory non-instructional fee that is put in place to cover costs outside of the classroom, is proposed at the same time. If approved, these increases will be effective in the 2013–14 school year.

The Students’ Union has been working to increase student awards, financial aid and transparency with student fees. On Dec. 6, the Board of Governors will vote on tuition and fee increases.

SU president Hardave Birk said that it is a commitment of the Eyes High academic plan and the Comprehensive Institutional plan to increase student aid and awards. However, Birk said the pool of awards, bursaries and scholarships at the U of C has not been increasing at the same rate as student fees and tuition.

“As tuition has gone up and as fees have gone up, the awards pool has not gone up at the same level. The problem is that if there is the same amount of awards but the cost is increasing, then the effectiveness of awards is going down,” said Birk. “In total, tuition and fees that students have to pay will go up by closer to 4.5 per cent or so and that is quite substantial.”

Recently, the SU has examined financial aid and awards over the past four years. They have found that more students are taking out loans and that student debt is on the rise. 

According to government of Alberta statistics gathered by the SU, student employment in the summer of 2012 was 48 per cent and over 12,000 more students accessed the student loan system in Alberta since 2008. At the 
U of C, there was an increase of over 2,300 students in full-time studies taking out loans since 2008.

The Consumer Price Index in Alberta measures increases in prices due to market fluctuations and inflation. CPI sets the maximum amount of increases to tuition every year, this year’s being 2.15 per cent. The U of C will propose this increase and an increase to the student services fee.

“Tuition fees account for about a quarter of the total budget here at the university and all the fees just go to the central operating budget and are then dispersed to different faculties,” said Birk, adding that the university should maintain their commitments to increase student aid.

“We hope that the university realizes that it’s easy to make commitments in the academic plan and the Comprehensive Institutional Plan,” said Birk. “If we really want to meet those commitments, specifically on financial aid, we need to consider that costs are increasing at a higher level than the aid is increasing.”

Student-at-large on the BOG and fourth-year history student 
Vincent St. Pierre said he will be voting no to the tuition increase at the BOG meeting on Dec. 6. St. Pierre said this tuition increase and added fee is happening as predicted, but a better plan for tuition and awards should be put in place by the university administration. 

“What fundamentally is frustrating about this process is that there is no vision for tuition in the future,” said St. Pierre. “There have been some substantial issues going forward without a calculated plan. As it currently stands, that requirement on the administration isn’t being fully put through.”

He said one benefit of the U of C administration is the consultation of students in the tuition process. The Tuition and Mandatory Non-Instructional Fee Advisory Committee has given many students the opportunity to give their opinion on fee and tuition increases. However, St. Pierre said more needs to be done.

Third-year health sciences student Breanne Cursley said it is very costly to be a U of C student.

“It’s already hard enough to pay for school, so any more money that we would have to pay would not be good,” said Cursley. “I feel like we don’t get that much for what we pay.”

She said more awards for students would be beneficial to complement students’ work.

“The university does not make good choices with their money a lot of the time,” she said, adding that she has not received awards from the U of C. “They should definitely increase awards and give students more for their hard work and for having to pay more.”

Birk also said that there needs to be more transparency to what the student services fee goes towards.

“A student’s ability to go to the 
U of C should not be affected by their ability to pay,” said Birk.

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