Students across all faculties on campus may be sending larger cheques to the University of Alberta in Sept. 2013, with the university seeking to raise tuition by 2.15 per cent.
University administration is proposing a price hike to general tuition, program and course differentials, as well as market modifiers for specific programs. The proposed increase will add approximately $113 to domestic-based program costs for both fall and winter semesters.
The increase follows those from previous years, when tuition was raised according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Last year, tuition was raised by 1.45 per cent, and the year before by 0.35 per cent.
Provincial funding accounts for more than 60 per cent of the university’s total operating budget. After five years of six per cent budget increases, the university was given two years of zero per cent increases from the government’s grant, leaving a $5.1 million deficit to spread out over 2011 and 2012.
When the government released its new budget in Feb. 2012, the U of A received a two per cent increase over the next three years, but since this is still not enough for the institution to break even, the proposed tuition hike for this year may help move the university towards a balanced budget.
“There’s a tuition cap and it restricts the allowable tuition per year to CPI … that uses a metric to measure inflation,” said Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi.
“The university administration for as long as I can remember has always maximized that tuition increase.”
This tuition cap was implemented by the provincial government in 2006, where the cost was capped at 2004 rates which limited increases to CPI.
“The tuition cap still isn’t holding them back from introducing new market modifiers and mandatory non-instructional fees like the CoSSS fee, so a lot of work still needs to be done to make sure that the tuition cap is actually capped,” Yamagishi said.
“When they max out the tuition increase every year, it kind of takes it off the shoulders for the government for a lot of the funding they’re providing … For (the university), it’s the easy way out (to) charge students more money.”
In comparison with 15 of some of Canada’s top universities, the average price of tuition at the U of A sits at $55 below the U-15 mean of $5,324 per term based on an Arts program.
U of A Vice-President (Operations and Finance) Phyllis Clark says she believes the proposed increases are a necessary step towards reducing the budget deficit and maintaining high standards of education at the university.
“It brings in an amount of money that we have no other way of getting, and that makes a difference for what we have to do to support the costs of the institution. And the costs flow through into the quality of education,” Clark said.
Along with the U of A president, acting provost and other staff members, Clark has been continually lobbying the provincial government and holding discussions regarding funding with Alberta’s premier, the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, the Minister of Finance and other key members of government.
“I think that they’re also struggling with the societal balance of who should be paying what,” Clark said.
“I don’t think this government would step out, given that they’ve talked about education being the important aspect of diversification of the economy, and also just the growth of Alberta and the future of Alberta,” Clark said.
The Students’ Union is also concerned about the accessibility and affordability of postsecondary education in Alberta.
“I think that the students here are really mindful of the quality of education that they get and are willing to support that if they think it’s justifiable — just not in the sense of voting for it,” said Clark.
The motion to increase tuition will have to be brought forward to the Academic Planning Committee and Board Finance and Property Committee before being sent to the Board of Governors for final approval by the end of December this year.
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