University of Alberta Faculty of Law dean Paul Paton has proposed a tuition increase to the Alberta government which, if approved, would see tuition hike by about $2,000 per academic year starting in 2015–16.
Tuition at the University of Alberta’s law school is currently $10,121 for the 2014–15 year. The proposed increase would be phased in starting in 2015–16, and the proposed law school tuition would sit at $15,995 by 2017–18.
In a letter penned to the Office of the Provost, Law Students’ Association (LSA) President, Scott Meyer, said the LSA executive supports the dean’s proposal for a market modifier increase.
“This was not an easy decision,” the letter reads. “In addition to the research we completed, we have come to the conclusion that an increase in the differential tuition fees, as proposed by the Faculty of Law’s administration, is necessary.”
The letter was also attached in an e-mail to all law students, notifying them of the LSA’s support for a tuition increase.
Market modifiers are intended to put post-secondary institutions on a more level field in comparison to similar institutions. The proposed market modifier would bring U of A law school tuition closer to the average rate of competitive Canadian institutions, which is currently $16,102. Competitive institutions listed in the appendix of the LSA’s letter include the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School, Western University, Queens University and the University of Ottawa.
Meyer said he is committed to providing law students with increased student support and an experiential academic environment. But this environment cannot be achieved if the faculty were to increase program enrollment, which is an alternative to increasing tuition, he said.
“In order to continue to be a great program, we need to be competitive,” Meyer said. “Students are demanding experiential learning opportunities and so is the profession. ”
Students’ Union Vice-President (External) Navneet Khinda said Premier Dave Hancock’s willingness to accept proposals for market modifiers came “out of the blue.”
The last time the province accepted market modifier proposals was in 2010, when Minister of Finance Doug Horner said it would “be a one-time thing” due to tuition being cut, Khinda said. The same year, the U of A’s Faculty of Law proposed a market modifier increase, but it was declared ineligible by the Government of Alberta.
Hancock’s openness to market modifiers in 2014 has left the SU and the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) “blindsided,” Khinda said.
Khinda added there hasn’t been adequate consultation regarding the proposed tuition increase. Right now, the SU is focused on making sure students have the opportunity to talk about the situation and voice their concerns.
“We can’t speak on behalf of all law students and say whether or not a tuition increase is acceptable,” Khinda said. “But the fact of the matter is they haven’t had the opportunity to decide for themselves.
“Even if they waited a month… this could all work out because students would be on campus with a chance to debate and talk about this. There wouldn’t be this ‘hush, hush’ feel to everything.”
Paton said Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Carl Amrhein requested a proposal to be submitted by the end of August. Because of the short timeline, there was no time to conduct a referendum, he said.
“We needed to be in a position to respond to the provost’s requests so that if a government does issue a call, we would be able to answer that quickly,” Paton said.
Paton maintained that the proposal could be rejected or revised at the request of the government once they review it. Whether the proposal goes through or not, Paton said he wants to increase the opportunity to consult with students.
“I’m preparing to address this if it’s going forward and answer student concerns about future investment, my plans or the future of the Faculty of Law.”
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