Students can count on paying an extra 4.6 per cent in tuition next year. For a full-time student taking five classes, that works out to about $230 extra per year.
Every year before university administration makes the decision to raise tuition they are required by Albertan legislation to meet with their student governments. Traditionally, students' unions have taken this opportunity to lobby administration not to raise tuition, and if a raise is needed, not to raise it the full amount. This year, the University of Calgary Students' Union is not taking this opportunity. Instead, they are asking administration to improve undergraduate satisfaction by 6.1 per cent.
This presents two inherent problems: first of all, they are not fighting a raise in tuition. This is the first time in recent history that an SU has taken this position. This is much like the Green Party giving up on stringent environmental regulations because they know the Conservatives would never go for them. Secondly, how can you measure a 6.1 per cent increase in undergraduate education? Quality indicators that may be used include results from the annual NSSE survey the U of C participates in. But what specific results from the NSSE survey will be used--or if the NSSE survey will be used at all--have yet to be decided. Meetings between university administration and the SU executive have already taken place, the first draft of tuition consultation will be Wed., Oct. 31 and the final decision will be put to vote at a Board of Governors meeting Fri., Dec. 7. The decision to opt for an increase in student satisfaction rather than lobbying to keep tuition low should only have been made if a clear system of measurement--and of how to hold administration accountable once a deal has been made--was put in place first.
Despite poor decision-making by the SU, it's hard to place too much blame on them. The decision to raise tuition by its maximum amount is in the university's business plan. This hardly presents a message to students that efforts made on their part will be taken seriously.
The province can also be blamed for an increase in tuition. The province released a new tuition policy in Nov. 2006 stating that tuition will remain at 2004 levels with increases based on inflation. This year, the Albertan Consumer Price Index increased by 4.6, that is, the percentage increase students are likely to pay on their tuition next year. The province has said they will fund an extra 1.5 per cent, meaning the university can expect an extra 6.1 per cent in revenue for next year's budget. In a province with billions of dollars in surplus, not prioritizing post-secondary funding is unacceptable.
However, the point still remains that student governments must do everything within their power to fight for students. The choice to not fight against a maximum raise in tuition is a choice not within the best interest of students.