BUDGET HISTORY: Financial woes

By Kent Breedlove

University of Calgary tuition fees are going to be jacked up despite an increase in funding. The increase in government funding was announced this June by Minister of Advanced Education, Jack Ady but according to U of C administrators it will have no effect on tuition.

“This type of funding does not raise the base operating grant enough as the cost of running this institution increases,” said Dr. Keith Winter, university vice-president (finance and services). “I don’t see any way to meet the inflationary increases. We have to increase tuition. The only real flexibility we have with our budget is with student tuition.”

However, Hob Dawson, executive assistant to the minister of Advanced Education, said the increase in funding should mean a freeze on tuition hikes.

“lf Advanced Education continues to increase funding, institutions will have to look at their tuition formula,” said Dawson. “Now that we’re moving out of a period of funding decreases and into a period of increases, each institution needs to evaluate ending tuition increases.” The government of Alberta has capped tuition at 30 per cent of an institution’s budget, but student leaders say this is too high.

“Students are already paying more than 26 per cent of the total operating costs of the university, and if you count lab fees and books, the actual cost is much more,” said Students’ Union President Sarath Samarasekera. He added that tuition increases have outpaced inflation.

Statistics Canada reports that student tuition costs have risen 120 per cent over the last decade, whereas inflation has risen 34 per cent for the same period.

Dawson said the 30 per cent cap was only a way to limit fee increases during times of budget reductions.

“Tuition is a primary revenue-raising method for every institution,” said Dawson. “But we are not telling institutions they have to increase tuition by that much. (The cap) is just a ceiling for the maximum students will have to pay.”

Much of the new funding available to universities and other post-secondary institutions will be through the newly developed performance-based envelopes.

“On, June 24, the minister announced an increase in post-secondary funding of $45 million over the next two years. That is separate from the old funding, so each institution will receive an increase in its base operating grant,” said Dawson.

Performance-based envelope funding is based on Key Performance Indicators that will determine how much money each institution receives. The KPI’S are still being developed, but are expected to be finalized by December. The indicators will be made available to the public in hopes of increasing accountability and providing a way to measure the quality of education available at each institution.

“Although we are finding it difficult to work out some of the specific indicators, there are some indicators that are worthwhile to measure so the public is informed,” said Dawson. He added that Advanced Education wants to encourage institutions to set goals for themselves. Both U of C administrators and student leaders have expressed concern that the use of KPI’S could threaten the university’s autonomy.

“This is all part of an intrusion into our autonomy,” said Winter. “How is (Advanced Education) going to define ‘getting better’? By educating students more cheaply?”

Up to six per cent (nearly $12 million) of the U of C budget could be based upon KPI’s. Institutions could also lose money if their performance drops.

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