“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.
This is part two of coverage on this meeting. Part one can be found here.
At the University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) Students’ Council meeting on November 21, Melissa Padfield, deputy provost (students and enrolment), presented on the university tuition proposal. Vice-provost (equity, diversity & inclusion) (EDI) Carrie Smith then presented on building an integrated EDI action plan.
The proposal includes a two per cent tuition increase for domestic students in 2024-25, and a five per cent increase for international students in 2025-26.
According to Padfield, the UASU and GSA are also “working together to create a town hall that will be even more broadly accessible to students.”
“We can answer more questions on the tuition proposals as we move through this consultation period,” Padfield said.
Tuition proposal addresses CPI, cost drivers, and revenue gaps
In developing the tuition proposal, Padfield said that the Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee (TBAC) looked at the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks the price change of consumer goods annually and acts as a measure of inflation, as well as other inflationary pressures. According to Padfield, the Government of Alberta indicated that the CPI is approximately five per cent to the U of A.
”That’s something we factor in when we’re building our larger budgets, to see what we can anticipate as far as cost increases,” Padfield said.
Increases to cost drivers also impact tuition increases, Padfield said. For example, CPI causes the cost of materials and supplies to rise. These make up 13 per cent of the university’s costs, she said. As well, Padfield emphasized that tuition should cover all components of program delivery. This includes instructor salaries, classroom maintenance, study spaces, and supplies. Additionally, tuition also helps fund research and student financial support.
The university is also experiencing gaps in its revenue, according to Padfield. The operating and program support grant is the funding the U of A receives from the Government of Alberta. The grant has seen a decrease of $220 million over the past three years, Padfield said.
”We do not anticipate there [will] be any substantive increase, or any increase at all, in that operating and program support grant in the coming year,” she said.
The university may receive other federal and provincial government grants, Padfield said. Although these grants are a part of the U of A’s revenue, the university is “very restricted” in how they can spend them.
”Those tend to be research revenues,” she said. “We can’t apply them to general operations or regular salaries and benefits.”
For 2024-25, the TBAC anticipates that “about 45 per cent of revenue will come from tuition, and 42 per cent will come from the government.”
Proposed two per cent tuition hike for domestic students
Last year, the government legislated that the maximum tuition increase that could occur in 2024-25 was two per cent. As such, the TBAC is proposing a two per cent increase for domestic students. In addition, the proposal will include a 15 per cent incremental offset dedicated to student financial support.
”As a reminder, CPI is projected at five per cent,” Padfield said. “So the increase is three per cent lower than what we anticipate the inflationary pressure to be on the university.”
Padfield added that the difference between a two per cent domestic tuition increase and an increase at CPI creates a $6.7 million revenue gap for the U of A. It also means $1.1 million less funding to allocate to student financial support, based on the proposed 15 per cent incremental offset.
University proposes five per cent tuition increase for international students
For international students, the university approves program-based tuition a year in advance. This is so administration can provide the legislative guarantee to international students when they receive an offer of admission.
For the 2025-26 cohort of international students, the proposed tuition hike is five per cent for all undergraduate and graduate programs. As an exception, undergraduate science programs are proposed to go up by 6.5 per cent due to their increasing demand. Additionally, the international tuition offset is proposed to increase to 8.55 per cent. This is to “generate more funding for student financial support,” according to Padfield’s presentation.
“We are guided by legislation that says at minimum, international tuition must cover the total cost of program delivery for international students. We are not able to apply any funds from the operating and program support grant to international student instruction or support,” Padfield said.
“For international tuition at the undergraduate level, we are proposing that all programs increase by the CPI of five per cent, reflecting that inflationary measure. We are required to make sure that the program costs are covered by international tuition.”
Integrated action plan to address EDI concerns within university
Smith presented on behalf of the EDI Steering Committee with the goal of receiving feedback from councillors on priorities related to EDI. Their feedback will help develop an integrated EDI action plan. As well, this plan will support SHAPE: The University Strategic Plan, and be guided by the Indigenous Strategic Plan.
“We aren’t kick starting something [new]. Rather, we are continuing actions for sustainability and into the future,” Smith said.
Vice-president (student life) Michael Griffiths addressed student concerns around the diversity and accessibility of prayer spaces across campus. He advocated for large-scale prayer spaces, and added that line-ups are long for existing spaces.
He also addressed concerns from the U of A’s queer community for whom prayer spaces may not feel like a safe space. This can be due to “knowing how their core ideology intersects with various different religious elements.”
Arts councillor Nathan Thiessen also addressed space accessibility on campus as an “urgent concern.”
”The UASU [student] spaces accessibility audit has identified a gap in spaces that need to be addressed when it comes to accessibility needs,” Thiessen said. He urged the university to “internalize that not everyone is able to access the spaces we all share in common.”