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Tuition hikes not a viable option to remedy universities’ financial management

November 3, 2017 —

Mount Royal University, Athabasca University and the Alberta College of Art and Design were all recently declared to be on unsustainable financial paths by three independent reports. This raised questions about whether the costs of obtaining an education in Alberta would increase or if these institutions would be shut down.

ACAD was the first to consider a tuition hike to help end their financial woes. The provincial government advised them to wait for the results of their tuition and funding review and until new tuition legislation is released later this year before acting.

It’s disheartening to see post-secondary administrations propose tuition hikes in response to criticisms of their financial management. Instead of curbing spending or looking for ways to use resources more effectively, they cry ‘revenue problem’ and demand more from the students already paying their share.

The government responded by telling ACAD to “live within their means.” Students are already forced to stretch their financial limits to an absurd extent and it’s encouraging to see the government listening to students’ voices.

It’s not students’ responsibility to bolster swollen and unsustainable university budgets. The provincial government has called out Alberta institutions in the past for over-compensating their administrators, so we know that poor budgeting is an existing problem. Administrators should take a pay cut before they consider putting students under further financial strain.

There is a limit on how much universities can demand from students. A degree no longer guarantees future success or financial well-being and universities are becoming increasingly inaccessible to many people. Many graduates are haunted by student debt far into their careers, let alone while still in school. Universities need to evaluate their financial management and the value of what they provide to students before hiking the already high price of tuition during tough times spurred on by their own inadequacies.

It’s time for university administrators to stop viewing students as an endless cash cow capable of taking higher debt burdens. Universities and governments need to consider better financial management and make tough calls, like cutting administrator’s salaries. ACAD’s president took home $278,000 while MRU’s received $326,000 last year, so it’s clear that neither of them are pinching pennies like their students are.

These institutions are an important part of Alberta’s culture — especially ACAD, our province’s only art school. The students who attend these institutions need to be protected from unfair tuition hikes as a result of their institution’s mismanagement.

Jesse Stilwell, Gauntlet Editorial Board


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