Differential tuition

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It seems that it is only a matter of time before tuition differentiation will start at the University of Calgary.

"It's hitting Canada like a wave," said Students' Union Vice-President External Nick Vuckovic. "Administrations are looking at it, but students need to mobilize to stop this trend."

Students in Ontario universities--where differential tuition is in place--pay different tuition amounts depending on their faculty or program. The University of Alberta has already implemented differential tuition for the 2002/2003 term, starting with its Faculty of Law. Law School tuition for the year is $4,851.52, compared to $4,032 for their Arts and Science programs, and $4,300.80 for Engineering.

U of C's administrators plan to start differential tuition in the Faculty of Law with a first tuition increase in the 2003/2004 term. It could potentially include the Faculty of Medicine and the Haskayne School of Business.

The SU hopes to discuss differential tuition at the Nov. 28 U of C Board of Governors meeting, however,

U of C Provost and Vice-President Academic Ron Bond does not feel the matter will be ready at that time. Instead, he proposes the discussion for a board meeting in late January or early February 2003.

"The government expects us to use differential fees," said Bond, who plans to pursue differential tuition at the

U of C. "We already have differential fees. What we are talking about is broadening the scope of them and including more programs."

In Alberta's Tuition Fee Policy, there is a provision entitled "Program Fee Differential," which states:

It is expected that institutions will levy fees that are reflective of the relative cost of programs and the relative earning capacity of program graduates. For example, fees for certain professional programs should be higher than for arts and science...

The SU opposes the idea.

"If we differentiate, are we saying that an engineering degree is worth more than a sociology degree? That if it costs more, it must be better?" said Vuckovic.

However, forms of differential tuition already exist. International students pay a 100 per cent differential, while executive MBA and medical students are already charged more.

Vuckovic believes differential tuition would create financial barriers for students in the "expensive" faculties, but alternately, that it could mean smaller tuition increases for "low cost" faculties such as Social Sciences. For the 2002/2003 year, undergraduate tuition is $4,120 for a full course load, an increase of $145 since the 2001/2002 year.

"By changing prices of degrees, you change it into a commodity," said Vuckovic. "University education is not a commodity. It's a social good."

Bond has also considered other ways to ease students' financial burden.

"We want to ramp up the amount of bursary support that we give for people who will be affected by fee differentiation," said Bond. "We are also prepared to make a presentation to the Student Finance Board [the body that determines student loans] about the need to change the rules. The idea would be to create more needs-based student awards for people in these programs [law, medicine and management]."

The SU believes it is likely that differential tuition will start next fall.

"We [SU] have no veto power," said SU President Matt Stambaugh. "We are doing what we can, but we have an administration that is 100 per cent for differential tuition."

The SU will lobby students in October, while November will be tuition month, where the SU will host weekly events until the rally on Nov. 27.

"We need to show the board members that students do care, by coming out on the 27th," said Stambaugh. "We won't change the administration's mind, but it's only one voice on the board. We need to convince the other board members, so just because administration doesn't agree

with us doesn't mean we can't win."