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Provincial government approves market modifiers, raising tuition across Alberta

By Chris Adams, December 22, 2014 —

The Alberta government approved 25 of 26 market-modifier proposals from the province’s post secondaries on Monday, Dec. 22, raising the price of tuition in three University of Calgary programs.

Market modifiers are faculty-specific tuition increases for degrees considered more valuable in the job market. With the government’s announcement, tuition will rise $170 per course in the faculty of engineering, $250 per course in the faculty of law and $300 per course for masters of business administration students.

The U of C will charge the modifiers to new students in the 2015 fall semester. Students already enrolled in these programs will not pay the new fees.

“These tuition increases allow institutions to enhance quality and make these specific programs more responsive to student needs. Our goal is to have the best post-secondary education in the country,” said minister of advanced education Don Scott in a prepared statement.

Students’ Union vice-president external Levi Nilson called the approval “gutless.”

“[It’s] absolutely outrageous. It’s obvious the government put absolutely no thought towards considering these proposals. It’s clear the decision was made before [consultation] even began,” Nilson said.

An Engineering Students’ Society (ESS) survey found that over 80 per cent of undergraduate engineering students don’t approve of the modifier.

Scott — who had final say on the proposals — delayed his decision past the initial Nov. 17 deadline, the same day over 300 students protested market modifiers at the legislature. Nilson delivered an ESS petition to Scott, along with their survey, during the protest.

Nilson said that student leaders weren’t consulted on the proposals following the protest.

“Considering they waited until a few days before Christmas during the announcement of the Wildrose Party leadership announcement shows they know how unpopular they are. We’ve made it clear that we won’t take increases lying down. Only the future will tell if they try this again,” Nilson said.

But U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall thanked the government for approving the proposals. She said the increases will allow the U of C to ensure quality education for students.

“We acknowledge that tuition increases are difficult for students and there have been passionate views from many students expressed throughout the process. We thank everyone who participated in the process,” Marshall said.

The U of C’s Faculty of Law Students’ Society sent a letter to the provincial government in support of their faculty’s market modifier. MBA students also expressed their support for the modifier prior to it being approved.

Alberta NDP MLA Brian Mason attended the November protest. He said it’s inexcusable to “squeeze students to pay for something that’s theirs by right.”

“[The government’s] pricing post-secondary education out of the reach of many students in our province. They and their parents pay taxes for these post-secondary institutions, and now they can’t afford to go,” Mason said.

Market modifiers were last introduced in 2010 after the U of C sent six proposals to the provincial government, including  a rejected proposal for engineering. Two proposals for the Haskayne School of Business were approved, hiking fees $239 per course for undergrads and $179 per MBA course.

Five market modifiers were accepted for programs at the University of Alberta, including a 58 per cent per-course increase in their faculty of law.

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