The future of fees

By Andrea Bundon

Faculties could soon be fighting it out for student dollars.

The University of Calgary is currently investigating the possibility of a Fee-Based Budgeting System, also known as enrolment-sensitive budgeting.

Currently, each faculty receives funding based on its expenses from previous years regardless of the number of students that enrol in their programs.

"Right now there is a base budget that bears no relation to the amount of students they are teaching," said Dr. Ron Bond, U of C Vice-President Academic. "[The FBBS is] a completely different model mainly because it draws a link between enrolment and the amount of money a unit has to spend."

Although the VP Finance and Services office agreed to the idea in principle, they have not yet determined what model will be recommended.

"We’re not there yet," said Richard Roberts, the Associate VP Finance and Services. "We really have to deal with this as a concept."

Many universities across the country have adopted an enrolment-sensitive budgeting system and U of C administrators hope to learn from their experiences. One possible problem is the possibility of faculties offering courses that are potentially out of their domain.

"For example, department A decides it’s going to offer its version of a course that department B already offers," explained Bond. "People are going to start poaching on each other’s territory. We are conscious of it and we know it is a problem. We need to keep our eyes on it and be vigilant."

Bond suggested that the university might look at adopting a formal protocol defining the courses that faculty could legitimately offer.

"I don’t think most faculties would do this," said Students’ Union VP Academic Nic Porco. "But what if they did? It should probably be addressed before fee-based budgeting comes into effect and not after."

Another concern is the possibility of new courses being created to attract students whether or not they are academically sound.

"It’s a worry," said Bond. "It’s something we have to guard against by monitoring course content, as we always do. We wouldn’t allow courses that were not academically merited because they might generate crowds."

Porco agreed.

"I think as long as procedures don’t change a lot there’s not going to be many problems on this front," he said. "The spirit of it must be maintained. These courses must be valuable to the students who take them."

Distribution of funds also remains an issue. Money must be divided between the university’s base operating budget, the faculty offering the course and the faculty in which a student is registered.

"We are conscious that some of the money has to flow where the work is," said Roberts. "There is the home faculty and the faculty that has to provide the course. Both have to be considered."

Porco is more concerned with differential tuition that may accompany an enrolment-sensitive system.

"Faculties like Fine Arts that require very small class sizes, like musical performance, can’t afford to put on a class for three students. It’s the same thing for Medicine," he said.

Roberts agreed that differential tuition will factor into consideration when developing an enrolment-driven fee system.

"We are looking at changes to the budget process because the way the university is financed is changing," said Roberts. "We want to look at it as part of the whole."

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