Double tuition increase

By Chris Beauchamp

University of Calgary students are likely facing a “double-bump” maximum tuition increase next year–to the tune of $62 more per half-course.

Premier Ralph Klein announced in February the government would pay the bill for last year’s increase, promising a new tuition policy by September 2006.

The government of Alberta’s current tuition fee policy caps student contributions at 30 per cent of post-secondary institutions’ operating costs. But since tuition increased last year even though students were saved from paying–this year the hit will likely be double.

The increase would mean U of C undergraduate students will pay on average $620 more for a full course load in 2006-07 than in the 2005-06 academic year.

The news comes on the heels of an advanced education minister’s forum in Edmonton and the annual tuition consultation between the Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Association and U of C administration.

“You’ve got to put the tuition consultation into context,” said SU President Bryan West. “As [U of C Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. Ron Bond] likes to say: ‘it’s consultation, not negotiation.’”

“For the most part, the administration comes to the table with the position that it’s going to be a maximum increase,” explained West. “But when it really comes down to it, it’s the government that decides tuition increases.”

The U of C is asking for approximately a 7.2 per cent increase that will come in addition to the 5.8 per cent tuition increase students were saved from paying this year. U of C VP Finance and Services Mike McAdam noted neither U of C administration, the SU or GSA want to see a double-bump, but students will face one unless the province comes through with a tuition solution.

“In the background there has got to be a resolution to this double-bump issue because we do not want to assess a two-year increase at once,” said McAdam, noting the current numbers may change if the government were to announce new funds.

McAdam stressed the need for the university to plan its tuition policies in advance of the following year.

“When we talk about these numbers it is a snapshot in time,” said McAdam. “It is driven by the need to provide this information to prospective and ongoing students. The earlier we resolve these issues the better off everybody is.”

“But we go forward in December,” he added.

West said the SU brought three objectives to the tuition consultation table this year. They sought the continuation of $1.64 million of quality money to the SU by administration to be spent on quality initiatives, a revised U of C tuition policy and a more accountable process when increases are sought.

“The SU is pushing for a new tuition policy changing the university’s philosophy of using tuition increases as an assumption,” said West. “In terms of accountability from administration, we were also asking that if tuition was going to go up any percentage, we were asking the university to send out a letter to every student.”

“The university administration agreed to that,” he said.

GSA President Christine Johns said graduate students brought their own requests to the table, calling for an increase to the graduate student funding pool, a long-term commitment to maintaining less expensive continuing fees, a promise that the U of C will continue lobbying the government and a four-year commitment to continue giving quality money to the SU and GSA.

“The university seemed respons-ive to all our requests,” said Johns.

McAdam complimented the requests of the SU and GSA, and said administration will be looking at drafting a new tuition policy and is committed to including quality money in its four-year business plan, but said things can always change.

“No matter how much you plan nothing is guaranteed in life,” he said.

McAdam, West and Johns all stressed the onus for tuition increases falls on the government, not cash-strapped universities.

“We do know they will be requesting a maximum tuition increase,” said Johns. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating, but the base operating grant increases simply aren’t enough.”

Johns said she wasn’t hopeful a long-term tuition solution would come out of the minister’s forum.

“I don’t think any concrete solutions or policies are going to come out of this forum,” she said. “Though, maybe some concrete frameworks.”

McAdam stressed any tuition increases will affect individual students differently, based on program, number of courses taken and other factors. He said the overall dollar impact shared by U of C students will amount to a $16 million increase.

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