Students’ Union vice-president external Conner Brown.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Market modifiers up for discussion

Students' Union executive says talks underway for unpopular policy

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Market modifiers increase student fees in faculties with a perceived higher earning potential, like business and engineering. Like mandatory non-instructional fees, market modifiers have a bad reputation among students.

Fairness is an obvious concern. Hundreds of students protested in the council chambers when market modifiers were proposed for six University of Calgary faculties in 2010. Two were approved, and bachelor of commerce student fees rose by $232 per course, while the masters of business administration saw a similar $179 increase.

Of the six U of C proposals shot down in 2010, one was for the Schulich School of Engineering. Fees would have been raised by $192 per course.

According to Students’ Union vice-president external Conner Brown, members of the U of C administration have promoted a new Schulich market modifier at tuition and fee consultation committee meetings since last fall. While there’s no word on when a new proposal will emerge or how much fees will increase, the discussions are already happening.

We sat down with Brown to talk about the possibility of a new Schulich market modifier.

The Gauntlet: Why do market modifiers exist?
Conner Brown: Market modifiers are essentially based off of earning potential when someone graduates. Primarily focusing on Haskayne and Schulich, they are very likely to get a job when they graduate. Also, it takes into account other institutions that are comparable. When they argued for a market modifier in Haskayne, they used a lot of Ontario schools as the examples because their business schools cost more than ours.

G: Are we going to see a market modifier added to Schulich’s fees?

CB: It’s a discussion we’ve had in tuition and fees consultation committee. Basically, [provost Dru Marshall’s] argument for having one in engineering is because our engineering costs are lower than the University of Alberta and other universities in Ontario. It has a perceived lower value for obtaining that degree. My argument against that would be, if there’s a perceived lower value, why was it harder to get into Schulich this year than it was to get into U of A and the University of British Columbia?

G: You’d think higher admission requirements hold more prestige than higher cost.

CB: Exactly. Here’s another argument against that. If we’re really hurting for dollars for engineering, show me a business case. Where are we short on money? Or, if we’re not short on money and a market modifier is supposed to increase value for students, show me where students’ money is going to increase value for obtaining that degree. In 2010, when the market differential went into Haskayne, they promised thousands of dollars a year to go to up-front scholarships and need-based grants for students going into Haskayne. Where is that? That’s never shown up. They haven’t followed through with that promise since 2010 so why should we believe them for this market modifier going into engineering?

G: So what’s the timeframe on this?

CB: We would have had to know about it by now if they were going to do it for September. If it was going to rear its head in a big way, it would be next fall. I doubt I would find out about it in my term. They wouldn’t want to have overlap between us who are very comfortable and very confident going head to head with administration, to have an opportunity to state our case and have the next executives follow through.