The University of Alberta’s internal budget has passed the last committee before it is presented for ultimate approval before the Board of Governors.
On February 27, the proposed budget and changes for 2020-21 received approval from the Board Finance and Property Committee, which oversees all financial matters at the U of A. The budget included increased tuition for domestic and international students, meal plan increases, and rent increases.
Additionally, the budget included a commitment from the university to have 15 per cent of the increased incremental domestic tuition go towards student financial aid.
The proposed budget will be presented to the Board of Governors, the highest decision making body at the U of A, for ultimate approval on March 13.
David Turpin, president of the U of A, said the institution is being challenged to make “significant changes” in the span of three years by government to better align with the overall national direction of post-secondary while the remainder of the country had much longer to do so.
“What we are experiencing now is a challenge from government to move our funding model more in line with what is happening in the rest of the country — which is a transition that has occurred over the last quarter-century in the rest of the country,” he said. “We are being asked to do [this] in the span of three years.”
The consolidated budget is forecasting an approximately $14.5 million deficit for 2019-20. Last year, the U of A forecasted an $11.5 million surplus for 2019-20. To compare, in 2018-19, the U of A had around a $103 million surplus.
Gitta Kulczycki, U of A vice-president (finance and administration), said the major impacts to the budget included less money from the government in the form of the Campus Alberta Grant, no infrastructure maintenance program funding, and reduced amounts of research dollars from other government ministries.
Tuition recommended by finance and property committee to increase
Domestic undergraduate tuition could increase by seven per cent and international undergraduate tuition by four per cent.
All committee members voted in favour of tuition increases except for Akanksha Bhatnagar, Students’ Union president.
Bhatnagar explained her vote against tuition increases by citing her responsibility in representing undergraduate students. She specifically mentioned marginalized students who are more strongly affected by tuition increases, such as international and Indigenous students.
“I will be voting no for this proposal, not because I don’t believe that the administration did their due diligence,” Bhatnagar said. “They did consult with students very heavily, but that does not necessarily mean consent.”
The tuition rates will be either approved or rejected by the Board of Governors on March 13.
Mandatory non-instructional fees up by 2.67 per cent
The committee voted in favour, with the exception of Bhatnagar, to increase mandatory non-instructional fees by 2.67 per cent.
Residence mandatory meal plans increase
The Board Finance and Property Committee voted in favour, with the exception of Bhatnagar and Graduate Students’ Association president Fahed Elian, to raise prices for mandatory meal plans.
The changes include:
- An increase by $148 per year, or $18.50 per month, to the level one Lister plan;
- An increase by $130 per year, or $16.25 per month, to the level two Lister plan;
- An increase by $148 per year, or $18.50 per month, to the Peter Loughheed Hall plan;
- An increase by $132 per year, or $16.50 per month, to the Augustana eight-month plan, and;
- An increase by $69 per year, or $17.25 per month, to the Augustana four-month plan.
Residence rates to increase, some set to sky-rocket
Residence rates at some U of A owned and operated properties will increase by five per cent next year, while others could be raised by 116 per cent.
The board voted in favour, with the exception of Students’ Union President Bhatnagar and Elian, for a flat five per cent increase to resident rates for the following residences:
- Augustana – Hoyme
- Augustana – Ravine
- Augustana – Community House
- Campus Saint-Jean
- East Campus Village Houses
- Graduate Student Residence
- International House
- Lister – Chalifoux Hall
- Lister – Henday Hall
- Lister – Kelsey Hall
- Lister – Schaffer Hall
- Maple and Aspen House
- Newton Place
- Peter Lougheed Hall
The five per cent increase was approved and ratified by the board. These residences also saw a five per cent increase to rent last year.
The other increases were recommended to the Board of Governors for ultimate approval.
The Board Finance and Property Committee has it within their mandate to pass new residence rates up to and including five per cent and approve any new residential rate increases.
Charlene Butler, the chair of the committee, said the rate increases before them were “quite significant” and were on newly renovated buildings. For these reasons, she asked the committee to not use its authority to put the final approval on the rates, but bring them to the entire Board of Governors for discussion, debate, and the ultimate go-ahead.
“On a monthly basis, the increases are quite significant and very concerning to the students,” she said. “Because of that, I felt it would be good governance to take it to the full board and not make the decision on those two things.”
The five residences in East Campus could see their rent go up by 10 per cent per month next year. Additionally, the newly renovated Mackenzie Hall in Lister Centre could be seeing an increase to match prices of Chalifoux Hall, meaning that single rooms will see an increase of 72 per cent and double rooms will see an increase of 116 per cent. This means for a double occupancy room at 165 square feet with communal washroom, a resident would pay $973 a month — $11.79 per square foot, three times as high as residents living in other buildings.
Bhatnagar said the added rates will detract people from choosing to stay in U of A residences.
“These additional rates are just another added barrier for students to enjoy what the U of A has to offer,” she said. “I really do urge that we think about this deeply.”