As the University of Calgary turns 30, it begins the pursuit of a new strategic direction toward the future. The aim of this new focus is to help the institution achieve a greater distinction across Canada and throughout the world. The U of C wishes to be recognized as a dynamic and vibrant university, worthy of representing the citizens of what they call the most educated and progressive city in Canada.
To meet this end, seven design teams were assembled in December 1996, made up of faculty, students and staff. These teams were created to address the issue of strategic transformation from a variety of different viewpoints. This article is the first in a series of seven that will look at the various issues these teams will address.
One of the new initiatives the University of Calgary hopes to pursue is in the area of revenue and expenditure strategy. Initially, the university wants to determine how to increase total revenue, while at the same time maintaining the efficiency of the funds they currently have at their disposal.
To meet this challenge, a design team led by Kinesiology professor Dr. Roger Jackson was assembled. The team seeks to answer the question of where the U of C can generate new revenue. It asks how the U of C can improve the efficacy and productiveness of resource allocation, what issues will impact economic future of the U of C, and what financial resources are required for the institutional change process to be successful.
During the month of April, Jackson's team collected commentary on campus and in the community on different ways for the U of C to generate revenue. In May, the focus switched to internal processes and how funds are allocated within the university itself.
According to Jackson, enrolment is one issue that is receiving the team's special attention.
"Where do we want to go as a university?" asked Jackson. "Do we want more foreign students? More grad students? Undergrad? What should entrance requirements be?"
Jackson said the team has to consider the financial implications of any changes to the status quo. He added that while it is desirable to increase enrolment, the U of C must not sacrifice credibility.
"We want to be accessible, yet marketable," he said.
The university's search for increased funding may lead them to tuition fees, one of the oldest and most reliable sources of new income. Of these, one of the most malleable sources of revenue is differential fees.
Differential fees allow different faculties to charge students different fees. Despite the attractiveness of this option, "we want to find other sources of revenue other than raising tuition," said Jackson. He added that the annual nine per cent increase in tuition, the maximum tuition growth allowed by the provincial government, will be looked at as well. He said a "balance of techniques" may be the way to go.
"Everybody wants tuition to be reasonable," said Jackson. However, what is considered a reasonable expenditure to one student is unacceptable to another. Hence, the topic of differential fees is receiving careful attention.
The Students' Union is "adamantly opposed to differential fees," said SU President Patrick Cleary. He said the s u wants an actual written policy stating their fierce opposition to such an idea, since differential fees "do not accurately represent costs of education."
While faculties such as Engineering and Science use significant funds for labs or tutorials, others such as Social Sciences and Humanities drain funds through the use of the library, noted Cleary. "It all balances out in the end," he said.
To date, the university has not adopted a formal policy on the issue of differential fees. Cleary said the provincial government not only encourages, but expects universities to charge students according to the expected cost and graduate earnings of a program.
Advantages and disadvantages to differential fees are outlined in an SU fact sheet. One disadvantage is that low-cost faculties such as Humanities and Social Sciences can expect differential tuition to mean smaller tuition increases.
Another disadvantage pointed out by the SU is that students with less money will inevitably face barriers to studying in expensive faculties such as Engineering, Law and Management. Also, to set up a system that accurately gauges the costs of instruction on a faculty, department or class basis would be difficult, if not impossible.
These are the kinds of issues Jackson's team is addressing. At the end of June, the team will prepare a preliminary draft of recommendations they will present to Dr. Howard Yeager, Associate Vice-president of Institutional Planning at the U of C. These recommendations will be partially based on the conclusions of other teams such as Information/Technology and Graduate Studies, whose conclusions are critical to the issue of Revenue and Expenditure