A revised set of proposed exceptional tuition increases — which would take effect for new domestic students in Fall 2022 — have been approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) and await approval from Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides.
According to Alberta’s tuition regulations, public post-secondary institution’s average tuition and apprenticeship fee increases cannot go up by more than seven per cent each year for the next three years. Additionally, tuition for any single program cannot go up by more than 10 per cent each year. Exceptional tuition increases that do not abide by these guidelines must be approved by Nicolaides.
The University of Alberta followed this process initially in April 2021, proposing tuition increases to eight undergraduate and four graduate programs to the minister of advanced education. These increases were rejected by the provincial government, which voiced a need for the university to conduct greater consultation with students. The government gave the institution until October 29 to carry out additional student consultation and resubmit a proposal.
After revising and adapting the initial proposal, the General Faculties Council’s Academic Planning Committee (APC), BoG’s Board Finance and Property Committee (BFPC), and the BoG all voted yes to an updated set of exceptional tuition increases. The final BoG vote occured on October 15. The proposal will now go back to the minister of advanced education for approval.
The revised exceptional tuition increases, which have been passed by BoG, but have yet to be approved by the provincial government, are as follows:
Exceptional tuition increases proposed in October 2021 for undergraduate programs:
- JD (law): from $11,701.48 to $15,094.84 (+$3,393.36, 29 per cent)
- PharmD (pharmacy): from $11,431.68 to $16,460.80 (+$5,029.12, 44 per cent)
- DDS (dentistry): from $23,109.16 to $32,352.76 (+$9,243.60, 40 per cent)
- APDDS (dentistry): from $57,093.40 to $66,337.00 (+$9,243.60, 16 per cent)
- BSc in engineering: from $7,309.44 to $9,099.36 (+$1,789.82, 24.5 per cent)
- BComm (business): from $8,012.48 to $9,774.24 (+$1,761.76, 22 per cent)
- BSc in radiation therapy: from $6,091.20 to $7,309.20 (+$1,218.00, 20 per cent)
- BSc in medical laboratory science (30 credit): from $6,091.20 to $7,126.70 (+$1,035.50, 17 per cent)
- BSc in medical laboratory science (37 credit): from $7,512.48 to $8,789.60 (+$1,277.12, 17 per cent)
Exceptional tuition increases proposed in October 2021 for graduate programs:
- Master in counselling psychology (thesis based): from $4,192.80 to $8,573.76 (+$4,380.96, 104.5 per cent)
- Master in counselling psychology (course based): $4,286.88 to $8,573.76 (+$4,286.88, 100 per cent)
- Master in business administration: from $14,380.80 to $24,624.00 (+$10,243.20, 71 per cent)
- Master in engineering: from $7,345.20 to $9,033.60 (+$1,688.40, 23 per cent)
Changes between the initial and updated proposals occurred in three programs: the undergraduate JD (law) program (from a 45 per cent increase to 29 per cent increase), the undergraduate APDDS (dentistry) program (from a 40 per cent increase to a 16 per cent increase), and the graduate master in business administration program (from a 67 per cent increase to a 71 per cent increase).
When passing these exceptional tuition increases at the BoG meeting on October 15, all members voted in favour with the exception of three student representatives — Rowan Ley, president of the Students’ Union, Anas Fassih, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, and Dave Konrad, undergraduate BoG representative.
Non-student members of BoG express support of proposed tuition increases
At the October 15 meeting, all non-student voting members on the BoG voted in favour of the proposal.
Many members of the BoG expressed support for the proposals due to their intended effect on program quality at the university. According to the proposal, the money from the increased tuition will go towards the following purposes:
- Financial aid (scholarships & bursaries)
- Program resources
- Learner supports and services
- Work integrated learning
- Career services
- Learning environment improvement
- Facilitated practicum placements/clinical placements
- Capital expenditures
- New initiatives
- Student associations
Daniel Eggert, an appointed member to BoG representing the general public, described the proposed increases as “measures that increase the quality of programming” at the university. Additionally, some supporting members credited the exceptional tuition increases as an opportunity for the U of A to remain competitive against other Canadian post-secondary institutions.
Charlene Butler, chair of BFPC, voted to pass the exceptional tuition increases, asserting they are “definitely best for the university.”
“I appreciate all of the competitive information that was provided,” Butler said. “I am very encouraged by the fact that we will be putting aside a certain portion [of the money from the exceptional tuition increases] to go and assist students with funding who need it.”
Student representatives on the BoG raised concerns that an increase in domestic tuition in 2022 could potentially result in increased international student tuition in 2023. In response, Butler noted future students can “make future decisions as to where they would like to go” for post-secondary education.
“As far as the international students are concerned we are talking about a small number of programs,” she said. “…We are not impacting anyone currently on campus [with these increases] and future students can make future decisions as to where they would like to go. I will leave it at that — I fully support [the exceptional tuition increases].”
Rakesh Saraf, an appointed member to BoG representing the general public, echoed Butler’s support of the proposed increases in tuition.
“I’m going to support this motion because I think administration is very clear with what they will do with this money — it is going to improve the quality of education and benefit the students,” Saraf said. “It is hard to argue that [these exceptional tuition increases don’t] benefit the students.”
“In the long run I see this [these proposed exceptional tuition increases] as a positive for what the university does, which is education.”
Student representatives question correlation between domestic exceptional tuition increases and international student tuition
During the October 15 BoG meeting, student representatives voiced concerns over the indirect impact raising domestic tuition for students might have on tuition for international students in 2023.
The proposed exceptional tuition increases, if approved by the minister, would affect only domestic students entering the 12 programs in Fall 2022. Proposed increases will not be applied to international students entering the university next year. The university, however, has no finalized plans for international student tuition in Fall 2023 and will consult with international students this upcoming spring to determine future tuition rates from 2023 onwards.
Fassih questioned whether the exceptional tuition increases, which are meant to increase program quality — and by extension potentially increase the cost of running programs at the university — would result in an increase in international tuition in future years.
“If you increase tuition for domestic students… in alignment with the regulations in the Post-Secondary Learning Act, you’re going to increase the quality of the program,” Fassih said. “That means the international tuition fees will also increase because the Campus Alberta Grant cannot pay for that difference for international students… so inevitably speaking, international tuition fees will increase.”
Steven Dew, the university’s provost and vice-president (academic), responded that an increase in tuition for domestic students would not directly result in increased tuition for international students. When considering if exceptional tuition could result in an increase in international tuition in future years due to the increased cost of delivering programs, Dew said that connection cannot made at this time.
“I would not want to make that [conclusion], because we don’t know so many of the variables that are involved,” Dew said. “[The university] will do the analysis and put together a proposal and have discussions with students in the spring about it.”
“I would not want to say that all of these programs will see increases of the same order that domestic students are seeing — I would be very surprised if that were the case.”
Ley and Konrad echoed Fassih’s concerns on the potential impact exceptional tuition increases would have on international tuition prices.
Konrad speifically questioned whether the university was intentionally not admitting a future increase in international student tuition to avoid current consultation with international students.
“International students are most concerned [that the university is] increasing [domestic] tuition rates now knowing that [the] international rate has to increase later, but using this domestic wording to avoid the need for [current] consultation with international students because [the university] no longer [has] the time,” Konrad questioned. “Can [the university] commit to not increasing international student tuition relative to the exceptional tuition increase related program cost increases?”
Kate Chisholm, chair of the BoG, interjected by claiming Konrad’s comments were inflammatory and accusatory.
“I’m not even going to let Steve respond to that,” Chisholm said. “That is quite inflammatory. Steve has told us that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to international tuition and that he will consult with students before he deals with international tuition. You’ve almost called him a liar, so I’m just going to move past that.”