The post-secondary act and the U of C

By Madeleine Somerville

Bill 43 has caused a commotion as Alberta post-secondary students try to reconcile themselves to proposed changes to the role of the Graduate Students’ Association, significance of the Students’ Union, the removal of professors’ and graduate students’ right to strike and, above all, changes to how university tuition is determined.

Described by Alberta Learning spokesperson Katrina Bleutchen as "legislation designed to prepare post-secondary systems for the future and the challenges they will face," Bill 43 has undergone many changes since its first reading, when GSA Vice-President External Jennifer Pelley described it as "hastily thrown together" and a "severely flawed document."

Amendments since the first reading included recognition of the students unions’ role as the "official" voice of students and the right of professors and graduate students to strike is now referred to as "compulsory binding arbitration." However, the proposed tuition changes remain.

Currently, legislation does not allow universities to collect more than 30 per cent of their net operating expenditures from tuition–this is what is referred to as the tuition cap. If Bill 43 passes, once an institution reaches the 30 per cent limit, they can continue increases using a Consumer Price Index plus 2.5 per cent formula. Although this seems to contradict the notion of a tuition cap, Bleutchen insists that "students won’t see any noticeable changes" in the tuition fee policy.

SU president Jayna Gilchrist disagrees.

"There is a significant problem with the removal of the tuition cap, it was originally meant to protect students and now that’s changing," said Gilchrist.

Considering the University of Calgary is currently at 26 per cent, Gilchrist acknowledges students might not see changes, but she firmly believes they have a responsibility to provide for future students who will be affected.

"The real point is this," stated Pelley. "Levels of funding to post-secondary institutions in Alberta must be increased, and they should be increased sooner rather than later. If the Government of Alberta is so interested in the goings-on at post-secondary institutions across the province, then frankly, I’d rather see them investing heavily in these institutions."

Students concerned about the proposed changes in Bill 43 should contact their MLA.

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