By May Domingo, December 4 2020—
The University of Calgary recently held a town hall to discuss the proposed tuition and fee increases for next year’s tuition. This topic was brought up again by the Students’ Union president, Frank Finley, at the recent Students’ Legislative Council meeting held via Zoom.
“We have not been given transparency,” Finley repeated multiple times while he expressed his concern regarding the tuition increase.
Considering that this is the “largest crisis of our lifetime,” Finley rhetorically wondered how the university could raise costs for students again, during a major crisis.
According to Finley, students living in residence have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and Assad Ali Bik, vice-president student life, noted that the absence of a Residence Students’ Association was a significant issue.
Ali Bik noted he’d like more clarification on the proposed residential fee increases and decreased food choices at The Landing.
Finley explained that the RSA was supposed to hold an election in March, but this was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“It is not as though the RSA has dissolved, but there are no elected officials,” he said, noting that normally there would be a consultation process directly with those officials. Finley has emphasized that he, and other SU executives, have been in touch with many students who are affected by the residential changes and that they hope to work with the university and other students to voice their concerns to the Board.
The UPass and parking fees have also been a growing concern for students and teachers alike. Vice-president external, Marley Gillies, said that discounted transit passes will continue to be available in the absence of the UPass as the U of C is one of the two institutions who were lucky enough to be offered it.
However, she promised that she and Finley will continue to advocate for a monthly alternative, though she indicated that it is not an easy process.
The tuition increase proposed by the university dominated the agenda, with Finley getting approval from SLC to offer a ‘no’ vote to the proposal at the upcoming Board of Governors’ meeting.
“We are plotting some more specific next steps just to prepare for the case of a tuition increase, or for tuition remaining flat, and for what the next draft of that would look like as well,” Finley said.
He noted that he is “sympathetic to the difficult situation the institution finds itself in,” but wished that the university would provide “some real sympathy for students at a time where people are struggling and struggling, perhaps in a way they have never struggled before.”
Finley further claimed that Alberta is “one of the most stingy, if not the stingiest province in the country” stating that only 7 per cent of money given out to students comes from the student grants offered by the province. Student debt, Finley noted, is not an easy thing to carry.
“When people carry that burden on their back, they’re less likely to start a business, they’re less likely to employ somebody, they’re less likely to be able to put a down payment on a house, they are less likely to be able to innovate in their own life. For what is apparently the most entrepreneurial university in this country, we have to ask ourselves the real issues that student debt will cause for people.”
Though many students have voiced their resistance to the tuition increase, it seems to be the ultimate endpoint for the next school year. Finley noted that “raising tuition is not like ripping off a band-aid. There will be long-term effects.”
Agendas, minutes and upcoming meetings for SLC can be found online.