2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Students can’t be passive about tuition increases

The University of Calgary recently proposed new market modifiers. These are tuition increases for faculties that have a perceived higher earning potential after graduation, like engineering and business. For the faculty of engineering, undergraduate students are looking at an added $170 per course.

University administration will try to sell students on the idea that market modifiers aren’t tuition increases. They’ll talk about how it’s a one-time increase to correct a market anomaly. That’s not true.

In 2010, the provincial government promised that any future tuition increases would be limited to the consumer price index. They lied.

Market modifiers are a tuition increase that gets around tuition caps. University administration is using a political opportunity to force a fee hike on students.

Every student I’ve talked to about this is frustrated. It’s a shock to realize that your yearly tuition could go up by almost $2,000.

The purported goal of market modifiers is to increase the quality of students’ education. But administration will be collecting 30 per cent of the revenue from your increased tuition. That’s money that won’t be going anywhere near the engineering department, let alone students.

Administration insists that they’re consulting with students. But they were talking about fee hikes for several weeks before engineering students were informed of the conversation.

When administration does consult students, it isn’t about increased tuition. Students’ Union engineering representative Parsa Samavati said his conversations with the dean of engineering skipped the debate over fee increases. Instead, they discussed how the faculty of engineering planned to spend the $3.85 million they’ll get from this tuition increase.

Eighty-three per cent of engineering students polled in last week’s survey by  the Engineering Students’ Society oppose new market modifiers. Administration hasn’t convinced students and the university must pay a cost when acting against overwhelming student opinion.

New market modifiers aren’t inevitable. You haven’t started paying the extra $2,000 in tuition.

Talking to administration at the U of C is a rigged game. We can’t rely on consultations with administration when all you get from the long process is a couple of small concessions. If we play by their rules, we’ll lose every time.

But if students act together, we have the ability to fight back. A single student showing up at Students’ Legislative Council when market modifiers are on the agenda is an expression of irritation. A hundred students showing up is an expression of solidarity.

Senior university administrators have decades of experience dealing with students that don’t like their decisions. Student consultation is treated as a minor inconvenience before they can do what they want. Prove them wrong.

Tuition increases don’t appear out of nowhere. They’re created by people with names and offices. And these particular tuition increases aren’t set in stone.

Demand that the Students’ Union fights with you. Make them put this on the agenda at SLC. Their job is to advocate on our behalf. When students overwhelmingly disagree with a proposal, creating an uproar is exactly within the SU’s job description.

If administration doesn’t listen to students, make them.  Protest. Email schulich@ucalgary.ca to let them know you disagree with tuition hikes, no matter what faculty you’re in.  Delay paying your tuition. Complain on Facebook. Contact your SU representatives and let them know this issue is important to you.

Demand answers from administration. I’m sure they would love to consult with you, so email them at provost@ucalgary.ca.

Refuse to roll over on important issues. Students are an important part of universities and administrative decisions are not inevitable. There’s no guarantee that administration will win this fight, unless we don’t fight at all.

We encourage students to pressure administration on these fee increases. The current consultation process is a guaranteed loss.

Keep talking. If no one is listening, start talking in places where it’s impossible to ignore you. Their shiny new offices in the administration building would be a good place to start.

Speak up. University administration isn’t listening to you and you’re getting swindled because of it.

Kate Jacobson, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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