Letter: university = robber-baron

By Paul Bechtold

There is long-standing discontent with the university of Calgary Bachelor of Education’s structure and effectiveness; student opinion has surfaced in letters to administration.

November 5, 2010, from: pb

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to request a partial or full refund for my third semester in the Education faculty. I believe this is a reasonable request and I ask that you consider my points below. I will be expecting a reply.

In semester three (Fall 2011) tuition costed $2,628.30. In my b.s.c in mathematics, my last semester costed $2,735.00. Next semester, I will be paying $3,025.43 once all expenses are taken care of. Please note that I am not making the usual plea of the undergrad: “We pay too much for tuition. A 5 per cent increase every year is ridiculous.” No, the argument here is that I want a reasonable partial refund for this semester.

Looking at semesters with a full course load, it is reasonable to say I was attending classes a minimum of four days a week. Anywhere from 3-5 hours per day. Then, we can determine that I am paying about 2,735.00 for 14 weeks, which works out to $48.84 per day (at four days a week). Compare this to my third semester in the b.e.d program where I will only have received instruction from the university on 11 days. This boils down to $238.94 per day (difference of $190.10 per day of instruction).

Now, I’m a reasonable guy. I understand that there are wages to be paid, lights to have on, $100 honorariums, meet-and-greets, etc. That is why I am only requesting what is fair to be applied to the balance of my account, which will help pay for my final semester in the b.e.d (which I currently can not afford because, as I said, I am effectively working full time in an unpaid practicum).

So, what is a fair partial refund? If I had to guess, I think it would be between 50-75 per cent of my payment ($1,314.15-1,971.23). Of course, this is up for discussion.

Look forward to hearing from you, p.b.

[Editor’s note: the university responded, stating that tuition is non-negotiable.]

December 2, from: p.b.

Thank you for the reply. I appreciate the follow up.

Now, forget for a moment that you represent the university, and read the remainder of this email simply as if you were one of the u of C’s 25,000 students, a prospective student, or part of the general public.

My concerns have been exacerbated by the fact that in the past five weeks I have seen my field advisor but once, and only for 20 minutes. Asking around, it would seem the other student teachers are in the same boat. We are concerned that this pushes yet more of the work of shaping us new teachers onto our partner teachers and schools. These teachers deserve better. They are amazing. They are the only thing that made this program worthwhile. (This is exploitation part 1.)

So, I gather that the university has arbitrarily decided my program consists of 15 units per term, with no substantive evidence of teaching occurring. I’m not sure what the word for this is, but maybe a cross between “cyclic argument” and “monopoly” captures the idea best.

Students: “Why is my tuition costing x?”

u of C: “Your tuition costs are based on units and your program is 15 units per term.”

Students: “Why is my term 15 units? How was this decision made?”

U of C: “Because pricing is based on units, and we wanted to make the same amount of money for doing less work.”

Student: “But then aren’t you are setting the unit rates and the number of units? Why not just say, ‘We charge what we want and since you live in Calgary and want an education degree, you really don’t have a choice. Now, pay for the ridiculously overpriced third semester and gtfo.’” (This is exploitation part 2.)

The fact is, myself and many more are distraught over the fact that we were drawn to what was promised to be inquiry-based, leading in the industry, and useful. Instead we received what is unorganized, expensive, hypocritical, and ridiculed by the people we hope to be hired by. (This is a bait and switch.)

Now, switch back to being a representative of the U of C. How can we proactively resolve this frustration? If the university is refusing monetary compensation, what else could we consider? This is not an argument that can be put to rest with “Your request for a refund is denied.” As it stands, I avoid recommending the U of C to students as a place worth spending their money on ’15 units’ of class where alternatives exist. I have been stressing the importance of exploring mru and sait programs. If the future grade 12 teachers of Calgary agree with my sentiment, I can’t see it ending well for the university.

Leave a comment