Tuition increase still undecided

By ├ćndrew Rininsland

The tuition double-bump saga continued as Premier Ralph Klein commented publicly last week that the provincial government will attempt to aid students affected by such an increase, just days after Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock said students should plan ahead in the event such an increase happens.

The so-called double-bump is a potential 13 per cent tuition increase for University of Calgary students in the 2006-2007 academic year and is the culmination of this year’s 5.8 per cent increase, paid for by the provincial government, plus the planned 7.2 per cent increase for next year. According to Klein, the government is willing to pay another $43 million province-wide to cover the increase, but encourages institutions to find the revenue themselves.

“I was really happy to see that Ralph Klein was still committed to his promise of making Alberta the most affordable and accessible province for post-secondary education in Canada,” said U of C Students’ Union Vice-President External Jen Smith. While exhibiting optimism over Klein’s remarks, Smith noted it will take more than one-time contributions to keep tuition affordable.

“I hope they look for something more long-term than simply extending the centennial rebate for another year because eventually we’re going to be facing a triple bump or quadruple bump,” she said. “It doesn’t solve the problem in the long run, though it is great for students this year and possibly next year. I hope that they look at creative funding solutions such as an endowment that could go toward mitigating tuition fee increases.”

According to Klein, the province could use the Access To The Future endowment, started earlier this year, to effectively normalize tuition increases in the future. While the initial $250 million currently set aside is a far cry from the $3 billion the government hopes to accumulate over the next 20 years, many see it as a step in the right direction. The fund is expected to pay $135 million annually once it is fully established.

“I don’t think anyone would object to having stability in the tuition formula so that we’d know from year to year more or less what the tuition number is or at least a range,” said U of C VP External Relations Roman Cooney. “That gives us some certainty, students some certainty and the province some certainty. The critical issue is whether that formula also provides the university with the funding it needs to operate.”

“It’s important to point out it’s the students who ultimately are impacted because that money has to come from somewhere,” he said.

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