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Student leaders express concern on proposal for exceptional tuition increase

By Cristina Paolozzi, May 25 2021—

The University of Calgary administration is proposing another tuition increase following two consecutive years of tuition increases for students. 

These proposed increases will affect engineering students, students enrolled in the Medical Doctor program as well as the Haskayne School of Business’ MBA program and international students. During the Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) meeting on May 18, student leaders were met with a presentation by university administration, according to a statement by the Students’ Union (SU). 

“I personally feel that the tuition increases are egregious,” said SU President Nicole Schmidt. “Particularly given the short window of compensation for the deadline for this proposal, I was quite shocked that the university decided to actually proceed with these exceptional tuition increases.” 

Schmidt said that the government’s deadline for the university’s proposal needs to be in by June 30, and the SU’s statement reads that the SU has invited university administration back to SLC on June 1 to further discuss and consult this proposal with student leaders. 

“The university administration came to SLC last week to do a consultation — we felt it was more of a presentation,” Schmidt said, adding that there wasn’t any time for an opportunity to gain student feedback. 

Schmidt also said that the SU is calling on the university to delay the proposed increases until students are back to in-person learning. Further, if the university refuses to delay the proposal, the SU executive team will be advocating to the minister of advanced education to seek further student consultation. 

“It’s really unfortunate that [university administration] decided to proceed with applying for these exceptional tuition increases in the spring semester,” said Schmidt. “The SU plans to advocate to the minister of advanced education to actually delay the approval until such a time as better and more wholesome student engagement can be done.” 

Schmidt believes that these exceptional tuition increases have the potential to deter students from continuing their studies at the University of Calgary, especially international students. 

“A 51 per cent increase to the engineering program for international students I think will be a massive deterrent for them to actually pursue the University of Calgary in the first place.” 

In a statement to the Gauntlet, Mathieu Chin, president of the Calgary Medical Students Association (CMSA), expressed how increasing tuition is not only unfair for students, but also causes them unnecessary stress.

“We are disappointed to hear of a proposed 15.7 per cent tuition increase to the MD program in the coming years. This will inevitably cause undue stress to medical students who are often already have student debts of over $100,000. Though we understand the University of Calgary is in a difficult position amidst budget cuts imposed by the provincial government, it is unfair for students to pay significantly more without any enhancements to the student and academic experience. The CMSA will continue to work closely with the Students’ Union to advocate for students on this matter,” read the statement.

President of the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association (FASA), Mateusz Salmassi, said that although the increases to tuition only target specific demographics of students, this could be a foreshadowing of things to come for students not directly impacted. 

“My initial concern for arts students is the fact that this is a foreshadowing of what arts students could see in the future due to performance based funding and further year-on-year cuts,” said Salmassi. “That’s why we expressed solidarity with [engineering] students and [medical] students because we know that a united student body can stand up to further cuts and increases and actually have a say in what happens to us.” 

Vice-President Communications of FASA, Chaise Combs agreed, referencing increasing students’ tuition as a way for the university to compensate for the continued cuts to post-secondary education by the provincial government. 

“I think it’s pretty obvious that the government is at least attempting to balance the budget on students’ backs,” said Combs. “The more solidarity we have as a student body the more we’re able to oppose austerity.”  

Apart from the continued tuition increases, Schmidt also pointed out the difficulties that students face upon graduation — especially with finding relevant employment.  

“University of Calgary students are getting squeezed by provincial cuts, and they’re already impacted by massive tuition increases over the last few years,” said Schmidt. “And while that’s happening, at the same time students are struggling to find work to help pay tuition and expenses. So, if the university administration was looking to put students further into debt, they’re doing a great job.” 

To read the SU’s full statement, click here.

This article has been updated to include a statement from the Calgary Medical Students Association.

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