Members of the Calgary community gathered at the Telus Convention Centre Tuesday to hear University of Calgary President Terry White deliver the "University's Report to the Community."
The address, essentially a "State of the Union" report, outlined various research advances, goals and concerns at the U of C. Of 300 attendees, most were university contributors, financial donors and Calgary community members who maintain an interest in university affairs. Students were invited, but few attended.
The presentation detailed current research, events of the past year and tuition issues. White maintained the university's position on tuition is unchanged.
"With limited operating funding from the government, we truly are caught between a rock and a hard place," he said. "We only have two major sources of income-the government operating grant and tuition fees."
Vice-president Finance and Services Keith Winter confirmed the university's options are limited.
"Tuition fees are the only way to increase our revenue," said Winter, adding that U of C students' tuition is in the "middle of the pack," compared to other Canadian universities.
Students' Union President Rob South disagreed.
"With a fiscal review and a firm setting of priorities it is possible for administration to go with a tuition freeze," he said.
White described where the financial burdens would lie between the university's two principal funding sources.
"I think there is a view among the public in Alberta and Calgary that users should pay," said White. "Those are public policy questions and I think the government would have quite a bit to say about that."
South contended user fees are approaching unbearable levels.
"We're at a point of user fees right now, where, for a rapidly growing number of individuals, this opportunity [to attend the U of C] is no longer present," he said. "It is time this province realized what an investment in the economy post-secondary education is. It's a system that not only pays for itself, it gives surplus."
Former President of the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta and member of the community Dan Motyka expressed concerns regarding the state of education funding.
"How do we continue to have the Alberta Advantage when we refuse or are reluctant to provide extra funding to educate our children?"
Motyka questioned the president about alternative funding sources for the university and also suggested creating an outside fund "earmarked for education" to supplement education funding in the province.
White also covered recent research breakthroughs at the U of C. Examples included Dr. Ji-Won Yoon's discovery of a protein involved in the destruction of insulin-producing cells and Dr. Patrick Lee's discovery of a naturally occurring virus that kills cancer cells in mice. White also positively described the Learning Commons, the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction Instrument and the U of C's international involvement, including his recent trip to Moscow.
Though South agreed the speech was appropriate with its focus on recent positive events at the U of C, he did express one concern.
"Certainly there was a bit more room to talk about the funding issues that we have and the stresses these are causing on students and faculty," said South. "You've got to let people know what opportunities there are to improve on that value and at least sustain it."
White expressed similar sympathies for academic staff, administrative staff and students.
"Each of them are making extra effort to help us do more with less," said White. "And I know, it does create stress."
An abridged version of the report will be published in the Calgary Herald this weekend.