Province responds to tuition proposals

By Noah Miller

Weeks of anxiety were finally relieved April 7 when Alberta Advanced Education and Technology minister Doug Horner announced the province’s acceptance, and rejection, of various tuition market modifier proposals from Alberta’s post-secondary institution.

Eighteen of 24 proposals from Bow Valley College, Olds College and the Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge were rejected. Proposed hikes in tuition at the U of C for the programs of Law, Engineering, Education, Masters of Education, Masters of Education (Applied Psychology) and Masters in Engineering were turned down.

“None of these are going to have any market modifiers or anomalies corrected,” said Horner.

Horner said that of the 24 proposals six “made a good case” and as a result “there will be one-time tuition fee adjustments in six professional programs.”

Two of these six approved proposals are the proposed increases to the U of C’s Bachelor of Commerce and Masters in Business Administration programs.

“This is to continue with the protection of the CPI cap and correct errors that were made and move forward,” said Horner. Horner also mentioned that other factors, such as the cost of delivering the programs, were considered when deciding whether to accept or reject the market modifier proposals.

Horner thanked student representatives for their input and for being open to discussion with him, playing what he called a “key role” in the process.

However, before affected students scramble to figure out how to cover these costs by September, Horner has also agreed that these increases should be “grandfathered.”

“It’s my expectation that students currently enrolled in these programs will not be affected, nor will students joining [them] in the coming year,” said Horner.

Horner acknowledged that most students “have all already made their plan according to what they thought tuition was going to be.”

“We’re going to respect those plans,” said Horner. “All changes will come into effect for students coming into these programs in Fall 2011.”

Horner also said that this was a “one-time acceptance from the institutions.”

“We will not be having any reconsiderations of proposals,” said Horner. “We will not consider any new proposals. We stand by our tuition fee policy 100 per cent.”

Horner also promised that any future tuition increases would be limited to the consumer price index.

According to U of C provost Alan Harrison the university administration was not entirely surprised by the announcement.

“We thought we’d built a good case on all of them,” said Alan Harrison. “We didn’t expect they’d all be accepted. That turned out to be the case.”

Harrison noted that it will be a long time before any effect of the approved proposals are felt.

“There will be very little effect on students until Fall 2013 when [affected] students begin taking courses at the Haskayne school,” said Harrison, noting that students do not begin taking more than one business course until their third-year.

Harrison also dispelled concerns that there will be cuts to enrollment to make up for lost revenue.

“Our enrollment will stay at least at the level that it is this year,” said Harrison. “The question is how much will that enrollment increase in 2010-11 relative to [this year].”

Harrison admitted that there may be some “minor modifications” to the budget presented April 12 but that “in bold strokes it will be the same budget [they have] been working on.” Nevertheless, Harrison expressed some concern over future quality of education at the U of C.

“Students pick their university not just on the basis of price but also on the basis of quality,” said Harrison. “What we were trying to get away from was being the cheapest. In certain programs I think we will still be cheap and that could have an affect in the future on quality.”

“The government has made a decision in respect of the criteria they were using and we respect the fact that it’s up to the government, the government has it within its power,” said Harrison. “It’s not a question of disappointment or elation. We wouldn’t have been elated if they’d have said ‘yes.’ We’re not disappointed they say ‘no.’ We are where we are and we’ll deal with it in terms of the ramifications of our overall budget.”

“We wouldn’t have made proposals if we didn’t believe there was a case to be made,” said Harrison. “They’re open to differences of interpretation and that’s how it is.”

Students’ Union vice-president external Kay She emphasized that “It’s a door students wished was never opened, we never wanted these proposals to be entertained in the first place.”

She compared the proposals to a cloud looming over campus, leaving students wondering when their questions would be answered.

“It’s still a huge concern for us and how students are going to look at these market modifiers,” said She. “The fact that it will be grandfathered and the market modifiers won’t come into effect until 2011 is a small win for our U of C commerce students and the SU.”

She thinks that it shows that the minister did listen when students protested on the tuition day of action and when they protested on the march to the legislature.

She praised Horner for his consideration of students and their ability to plan how they will afford their education, but remains concerned over where administration will redirect funds from to balance the budget.

“What’s going to happen when we come back tomorrow . . . how are they going to come up with that extra money that they had budgeted for with market modifiers?” asked She.

“The Minister has been very clear since the outset that any possible modifications to base tuition should not be a solution to deficits,” said SU president Charlotte Kingston. “So as far as the SU is concerned, the administration had no business putting these increases in their budget in the first place. We’ve been very clear about that throughout our consultation process.”

Both Kingston and Harrison agree that the money that would have been drawn from market modifier proposals is not huge when compared to the overall budget and that the money will be found.

Kingston’s concern is that the modifiers were at the same time incredibly significant to individual students.

“We have concerns about where they will be looking to find the revenue,” said Kingston. “Truthfully they should have never been budgeting to have this very volatile . . . revenue in the first place.”

The Board of Governors meets to discuss the budget and compulsory fee proposals on Monday, April 12.

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