The tenth annual Alumni vs. Student debate took place last Thu., Nov 14. Differential tuition was the topic this year.
Moderator Aaron Szott began the debate by introducing the speakers and laying the ground rules. Trevor Lynn and Byron Nelson represented the alumni, while Erin Weir and Michael James were the voice of the students. Decided via coin toss, the alumni rallied for differential tuition, while the students opposed.
Lynn opened the debate, introducing the topic and its advantages. He said that differential tuition should be supported because it is necessary for the University of Calgary's livelihood. The alumni argued that a change in tuition rates has the potential to raise our status. Increased status may be appealing to those who have already paid for their schooling.
"How others look at the university is very important," stated Nelson, a litigation attorney.
When Nelson attended the U of C in 1989, Maclean's placed Calgary near the bottom in their annual ranking of Canadian post-secondary institutions. At that point, our ranking was based on what Nelson called a deeply ingrained Eastern bias. Now, the bias has been rectified but Calgary is still at the back of the pack.
James represented the students and the opposition, and responded to fears of inadequate rankings in Maclean's by saying that university policy should not be influenced by "an arbitrary magazine's standards." The students pointed out that we are doing poorly in the Maclean's ratings in general, not specifically due to a lack of money.
If U of C implements differential tuition, and University of Alberta does not, James feels it will drastically affect enrollment.
"Students once interested in our program will go elsewhere," he said.
Nelson noted a trend occurring in the last decade: regardless of tuition increases, enrollment has skyrocketed.
"We won't lose students," he said. "Our status will make up for our tuition costs."
Nelson argued that this will also benefit students in the arts and sciences who currently pay the same tuition as students enrolled in more expensive faculties such as medicine. A portion of their inflated tuition is going toward funding these faculties. Lynn claimed that the U of C has the highest tuition for Arts and Sciences in all of Canada.
Nelson feels that without some significant changes to funding at the U of C, certain faculties will suffer.
"The law, business and medical faculties are no longer competitive," said Nelson. "I think the government's proposal is genius."
"Keep it as it is. Differential tuition is not the solution," he said.
Both James and Erin Weir, leader of the opposition, believe that differential tuition is essentially a measure to increase revenue.
"It doesn't have the good of the students in mind," worries Weir.
As students of expensive faculties transfer programs or flee to other universities, we run the risk of turning into what Weir calls "a glorified liberal arts college."
"Differential tuition is discriminatory," James stated. "It bases acceptance on social class rather than academic excellence."
Trevor Lynn closed the debate with some final comments.
"There is much reason to be very optimistic about the advantages of differential tuition," he said.
With more money comes better education, which will in turn give the university "every opportunity to do well."
Raising $150 for the Campus Food Bank, the alumni emerged victorious once again. The students raised a respectable $50, resulting in a total donation similar to last year.
Would the outcome have been different if it weren't decided by people's willingness to fork out cash? Quite possibly. One student from the crowd summed it up best as he yelled out, "I can't donate. I have to save for differential tuition."