Opinions
Jen Grond/the Gauntlet

Editorial: Tuition uncertainty drags on...

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The ongoing saga of Alberta tuition took another odd turn this past week, as budget meetings scheduled to approve the university's proposal seems to be shelved until the end of the academic year.

Key committee meetings leading up to the University of Calgary's budget approval vote have reportedly been postponed. The bump of these U of C meetings may result in the April 12 board of governors meeting being re-scheduled, yet again, likely to sometime in May or June.

In a sense, a postponement of the meetings seems like great news. Despite having some inkling of their financial predicament since early fall, U of C administration has seemingly only come up with their present plan. Moving the meeting means instead of voting on a budget framework relying on compulsory fees and market modifiers to balance the books when they haven't even been okayed by the province, the board of governors will likely vote on a real budget based on real, government-approved numbers. Such a vote would only occur after the province announces its stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers, which Students' Union president Charlotte Kingston indicated in Students' Legislative Council this week would likely happen in mid-April.

The unfortunate side effect of the meetings being moved is that continuing and incoming students won't have any idea what school is gonna cost them until five or six months later than they usually would, although the added pinch on continuing students might only be $500. This would especially hinder students entering programs potentially facing market modifiers, as they could see a significant bump in tuition and have to scramble to find that money over the summer. In fact, if budgets aren't approved until June, these new students might not even know how much their classes will cost as they're registering for them.

As much as the finger of blame can be pointed at U of C administration for the handling of the tuition mess, at least as much blame should be pointed at the provincial government. The scheduling of the province's budget announcement for February completely changed the timeline for the universities and left them playing budgetary catch-up-- particularly when post-secondary funding was less than expected-- and the lack of leadership shown by advanced education and technology minister Doug Horner in taking an early, definitive stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers has left students, administrators and everyone else playing the waiting game.

The U of C has been in the public relations toilet as of late, with allegations that an engineering professor misused research funds being the latest in a line of negative stories about the school. That said, administration's hands have been tied by the provincial government and as far as the tuition debacle goes, they might not be entirely to blame. The university can only plan as much as the province allows them to. When the province doesn't even have the foresight to give them the tools to do the job properly, they're already set up for failure. When the university fails to plan, how can any of its students possibly succeed?

Correction:

An earlier version of this editorial reported that the University of Alberta budget meeting had been postponed. The Gauntlet has since been informed by U of A administration that this was not the case and that the tuition meeting will take place, as originally scheduled, on Fri., March 26. The Gauntlet apologizes for this error and any confusion it may have caused.

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Comments

> The ongoing saga of Alberta tuition took another odd turn this past week, as budget meetings scheduled to approve university proposals seem to be shelved until the end of the academic year.

But your previous failditorial (http://thegauntlet.ca/story/14214) had already decried in stone the University\'s finalized tuition plans:

\"Base tuition is slated to go up 1.5 per cent, the rate of inflation, the most that tuition can be legally raised according to the Post-Secondary Learning Act. In addition, the university is proposing a compulsory fee, estimated to be around $500, that will be levied upon all students. Last, and certainly not least, the university is adopting a differential tuition scheme for professional degrees, similar to that of the University of Alberta -- raising annual fees approximately 40 per cent for business and engineering, $2,000 for law and $4,000 for medicine.\"

Are you again overstating your knowledge of the facts for editorial gain?

> A University of Alberta board meeting initially planned for this week has been quietly re-scheduled to May 2 by request of the provincial government, while key committee meetings leading up to the University of Calgary\'s budget approval vote have reportedly also been postponed. The bump of these U of C meetings may result in the April 12 board of governors meeting being re-scheduled, yet again, likely to sometime in May or June.

The university ignored students, so you complained. The university followed your suggestion and responds to students, so you complain. Are you practicing your universal opposition to join the Alberta Liberals?

> The re-scheduling of these meetings comes on the heels of a concerted lobbying effort by the Council of Alberta University Students, culminating in last week\'s march on the provincial legislature. Between boisterous student protests and appeals from student leaders that budgets would be approved by institutions without the ministry of advanced education and technology even approving compulsory fees or market modifiers, it seems that the government actually listened and moved the meetings.

Moving meetings couldn\'t have anything to do with the passage today of Bill 1 and Bill 2 which both affect PSE, or Bill 5 which put $200 million into AET a couple weeks ago. In your world, must everything that the government does be exclusively evil toward students?

> In a sense, a postponement of the meetings seems like great news.

Whatsoever gives a student journalist the opportunity to whine shall be construed as great news.

> Despite having some inkling of their financial predicament since early fall, U of C administration has seemingly only come up with their present plan.

Unlike the SU and Gauntlet, who may as well have ignored this inkling entirety and then recycled a plan from 2000 late in the game.

> Moving the meeting means instead of voting on a budget framework relying on compulsory fees and market modifiers to balance the books when they haven\'t even been okayed by the province, the board of governors will likely vote on a real budget based on real, government-approved numbers.

If your claim is that the Board of Governors\'s only function is to rubber stamp numbers provided by the government, then the board meeting does not matter (in which case part of your overall argument fails)...

> Such a vote would only occur after the province announces its stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers, which Students\' Union president Charlotte Kingston indicated in Students\' Legislative Council this week would likely happen in mid-April.

... And contradicts your claim in your previous editorial that it was \"the U of C\'s decision to essentially pass the responsibility to balance their books directly to students.\"

> The unfortunate side effect of the meetings being moved is that continuing and incoming students won\'t have any idea what school is gonna cost them until five or six months later than they usually would, although the added pinch on continuing students might only be $500.

$500: A number shockingly close to consumer and institutional inflation, average annual tuition increases for the last decade, and the number which you and the rest of the media have warned students about for the past three months. So, would students be unprepared because they believed you, or because they did not believe you?

> This would especially hinder students entering programs potentially facing market modifiers, as they could see a significant bump in tuition and have to scramble to find that money over the summer. In fact, if budgets aren\'t approved until June, these new students might not even know how much their classes will cost as they\'re registering for them.

OMG. Students can\'t deal with uncertainty, so the best way to prevent an increase which you\'ve been announcing as undeniable gospel since January is to ask students to--wait for it--actively protest to change the scope, scale, and timing of the increase so that it moves from a likely outcome to an unknown with new variables.

> As much as the finger of blame can be pointed at U of C administration for the handling of the tuition mess, at least as much blame should be pointed at the provincial government.

Recap: SU and Gauntlet suspected tuition badness in the fall, but decide to do nothing substantial until February. Then, SU and Gauntlet demand wholesale changes to the university\'s tuition plan, so therefore the government is to blame when it listened to the students\' last-minute protestations?

> The scheduling of the province\'s budget announcement for February completely changed the timeline for the universities and left them playing budgetary catch-up -- particularly when post-secondary funding was less than expected --

Amidst the worldwide economic slump for a year prior, university-wide budget and staff reductions, and government-wide staff reductions, THE SCHEDULED DEPLETION OF FUNDS FROM THE PREVIOUS PROVINCIAL BUDGET, AND THE UNIVERSITY\'S PLAN FOR MARKET DIFFERENTIALS AND A NEW COMPULSORARY FEE, that money would be short this year must have been a huge surprise.

> and the lack of leadership shown by advanced education and technology minister Doug Horner in taking an early, definitive stance on compulsory fees and market modifiers has left students, administrators and everyone else playing the waiting game.

If he had said \"yes\" to the increases in September, students would have protested for a \"no\" to increases until the forthcoming important Board meeting. If he had said \"no\" to the increase in September, students would have protested program cancellations, staff and faculty reductions, etc. needed to make up for the shortage of funding increase, until the forthcoming important board meeting. Unless you are arguing that the SU is entirely incompetent, students\' own actions would have caused approximately the same magnitude of uncertainty by now regardless of any decision by the minister before now.

> The U of C has been in the public relations toilet as of late, with allegations that an engineering professor misused research funds being the latest in a line of negative stories about the school.

And so you are wrong because that fundamentally... tuition... justice... I\'ve got nothing, and neither have you.

> That said, administration\'s hands have been tied by the provincial government and as far as the tuition debacle goes, they might not be entirely to blame.

Tied by the government in the sense that they went ahead with the unholy tuition increase plan without seeking government approval and were allegedly stopped by students? Or tied in the sense that the board has not successfully been governing this university for this year and possibly previous years, WITHOUT THE SU OR THE GAUNTLET ACTING ON THIS FACT?

> The university can only plan as much as the province allows them to. When the province doesn\'t even have the foresight to give them the tools to do the job properly, they\'re already set up for failure.

You\'re right. Providing the new unified view of provincial PSE applications, program demands, and student loans was entirely useless for planning and budgeting purposes since that system does not record students\' ever meandering concerns. It\'s not as though the government budget from last year or any of the quarterly updates would have provided signs that money would be tight. After all, it\'s up to the government to plan, and acquiesce, to the whims of a university board or financial people who couldn\'t remember Harvey\'s pension details for nine years, and not up to the university to do its own competent financial planning taking into account obvious contingencies. And why would universities or the government plan anyway when students are by default dissatisfied with every plan?

> When the university fails to plan, how can any of its students possibly succeed?

You\'re living proof.

anonymous, number 1: man, whoever edits the paper this year has let some shitty copy through. last year was bad enough, but this year is another level of suck.

i\'m sick and tired of seeing the gauntlet print bullshit article after bullshit article and get away with it. it\'s like they don\'t even care about getting it right anymore. there\'s not a section this year that has been good -- it\'s bullshit uninformed opinions, stupid interviews with hipster bands that aren\'t relevant to me, news articles that read like crap. sports is pretty okay though.

look man, it\'s time to actually make a grievance against the gauntlet. if we all do this together than maybe these pretentious idiots will listen.

http://thegauntlet.ca/info/grievance/

Anonymous #2: Unfortunately, the complaint of \"Dear Gauntlet, your reportage sucks and would be enhanced by a hiring an effective fact-checker and understanding your audience\" is unlikely to get remedied soon since the paper reboots in a couple of weeks.