Opinions
Jen Grond/the Gauntlet

Editorial: Tuition is the price of ambition

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Despite the new library being shorter in stature than the old, the University of Calgary administration betrayed their vaulting ambition Tuesday night.

Responding to student questions at the Students' Legislative Council meeting, U of C provost and vice-president academic Alan Harrison defended the university's proposed differential tuition increases, arguing that tuition would remain favourable compared to the universities the U of C sees itself competing against -- notably the University of Toronto, York, Queen's, Western Ontario, McMaster and UBC.

If these increases go through, it is imperative that students hold the university to their claim of realistically competing with those luminous names -- and not only in the faculties facing market modifiers.

Harrison's key point was that any increases would reflect a continued commitment to high quality education. He noted that it was reasonable to raise tuition in certain faculties because -- in addition to the higher supposed earning potential of their members -- the programs cost more to deliver. This being the case, students should expect a competitive education across the university, not merely in those specific faculties where tuition is being dramatically raised. If, as Harrison held, the Arts and Sciences faculties are currently subsidizing the education of students in more costly faculties, then an increase in tuition in those programs should see a concurrent relative increase in the budgets of the Arts and Sciences, which would conceivably no longer be paying disproportionately into those other programs. So, in keeping with admin's argument, all of the faculties should see their budgets aided by the market modifiers.

This notion is further bolstered when one considers two of Harrison's other points. He said that business students, who face a tremendous increase in their own program's fees, take up to half of their courses in the Arts and Sciences. The quality of these faculties, then, has a direct bearing on the quality of a business student's education. Ignoring these components would jeopardize the much-cited competitiveness of the Haskayne program.

Further, Harrison was very clear on Tuesday that tuition increases in certain faculties would not relegate others to the status of a poor man's degree. If so, the quality of the Arts and Sciences will have to attain the same level as the faculties of Law, Medicine, Business and Engineering. As long as admin stays consistent on these points, the university as a whole should be expected to keep up with their lofty ambitions.

Acknowledging that the U of C is competitive in Business, Medicine and Engineering -- though some may take issue -- it is far from certain that the school can adequately represent itself as a direct challenger as a whole. But this is exactly what is required of the U of C. In order to remain consistent in its arguments legitimating differential tuition increases, the U of C must create a robust academic community across all disciplines. This means the U of C needs to compete directly with the largest schools in Canada, including the U of T, with an endowment significantly larger than the U of C's and enviably situated in the heart of the country's largest urban area. Realistic competition requires a jump of more than 100 spots on the Times World University Rankings to get within proximity of UBC, the U of T or McGill. Even given the inherent flaws in any sort of ranking system, such a large gap clearly indicates a difference in quality. If this is a serious goal to be relentlessly pursued by admin, that is fine, but if the U of C fails to rise as a whole to this challenge, admin's arguments of Tuesday night are simply hollow explanations which fail to legitimize the tremendous increases.

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What a joke. Demand that the external forensic audit recommended by the Faculty Association be done. See the Open Letter to the Board of Governors (Faculty Association website).

Excellence can be accomplished by reducing enrollment to reduce the dilution of non-tuition income, but only under a sensible plan. Please do recall that the students of the early 90s demanded increased accessibility, which compelled administrators to lower admission requirements in the mid 90s, which resulted in complaints about reduced educational quality and lower rankings in Macleans et al. Admin upped admissions requirements in the late 90s in response, but the damage was done. Recall also that around 2001, Dr. Weingarten tried to remedy this through two five year plans to enhance the U of C as a research institution, but students then complained that research programs were inaccessible to undergraduates, which resulted in the introduction of BHS, ISEEE, experiential learning, international outreach, various research collaborations, and other expensive programs in response in the mid 00s. Students then complained that the physical plant such as CCIT, HSC upgrades, ICT, and even TFDL required to house this type of program didn\'t contribute to the quality of undergraduate education, and that U of C still ranked low on Macleans. U of C then pulled out of some rankings, and simultaneously provided Quality Money to both the SU and GSA to enhance the educational at the U of C. The students chose to apply the funds to programs in the TLC (in line with one of their grievances), and a majority of funds to library resources (?) and BSD (!), and have not since evaluated the effectiveness of those expenditures. In his departure, students now attack Dr. Weingarten for raising too much research funding and failing to deploy it, while complaining about buildings being erected to operationalize those funds. Also, leasing ATCO trailers is expensive, but every dollar used for sustainable infrastructure is a dollar taken away from teaching kids who are more concerned about how much they\'ll pre-drink before ThursDen than anything the instructors have to say.

Recent history has shown that the local student government opposes the administration for the sake of opposition, and that they are consistently incoherent in their long term preferences and demands.

In the next ten years, it is likely that students will complain that administration takes too long to attract world-class research talent to operate the new infrastructure and teach undergraduates and run undergraduate research programs and also that such individuals are too expensive when we can do it at home, and simultaneously that we have failed to attract the same quality of talent as U of T, UBC or McGill, and that we\'re not receiving sufficient non-research and non-teaching benefits from the presence of such physical and human infrastructure.

Only in Alberta would students consider a record high number of applications for PSE to be evidence of an accessibility problem.

Also remember that the Alberta Advantage was the result of an era of across the board cuts in the Klein era.