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Alberta government delays U of C’s exceptional tuition increase

By Sophia Lopez, July 30 2021—

This week, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) announced that the government of Alberta has decided to delay the massive tuition increases proposed by the university due to a lack of proper student consultation. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, SU President Nicole Schmidt discussed how she agreed with the decision made by the government, as she felt that the university was not being transparent enough with students during the consultation period which started in March.

“In my opinion there was a lack of depth of consultation, and also the time frame that the university actually set out for the consultation period was very limited in nature. So there was really very limited student engagement in the consultation process,” she said. “The consultations were barely more than information sharing with students.” 

The tuition increases that U of C planned to implement in the 2022 fall semester consisted of increasing tuition up to 30 per cent for undergraduate students in Engineering and Medicine — a plan which was approved by the Board of Governors this June

Schmidt explained how such an increase isn’t fair for students considering how much they already have to pay for their university education — and this increase was not mentioned to students until the beginning of summer break. 

“That’s no way to engage student stakeholders who already pay a lot of money for their education,” she said. “Something that was really lacking in the spring when they began their consultation process was the information sharing. The university wasn’t transparent with the size of these tuition increases, but also the details of these proposals.” 

After trying for months to stop the exceptional tuition increases from happening, Schmidt and the SU are beyond happy to see the government responding to the lack of proper student consultation done for the proposal of tuition increases, and praised VP External Marley Gillies for her advocacy on the issue. 

“I personally am ecstatic. I know that my colleagues at the SU are also very excited,” said Schmidt. “This was a really big student advocacy win. This win came as a result of a lot of organized advocacy effort from myself, but also from VP External Marley Gillies and our communications team, and several meetings with the minister and the ministry to discuss our concerns. So this is a really big win for students and not something that you see happen everyday.”

Schmidt hopes that U of C will now begin to provide more information to students regarding the improvements the university plans on making if tuition were to increase.

“One thing students haven’t seen is an itemized list of program specific improvements that the university is planning to make with these tuition increases,” she said. “Myself and other members of the SU haven’t seen this either, so we’re really hoping that the university will come forward with what they’re planning to actually improve for the programs that they’re increasing tuition for.”

For the upcoming fall semester, Schmidt mentioned how the SU plans on advocating for a better student consultation system.

“Myself and the SU certainly believe that there must be a minimum standard set for the university to adhere to when it comes to consultation and student feedback,” said Schmidt. “So we’re planning to present this to the university and use a guiding document for consultation going forward, because we’ve seen a real lack of student feedback and student consultation on this and other issues from the university in the past year. So that’s sort of our plan for next steps going into the fall.”

In a statement from the university, more details were given as to when and who the tuition increases will affect if they were to be implemented. 

“While we believe our consultations with students and other stakeholders were robust, we are happy to expand our efforts with the extra time given by Minister Nicolaides. If approved as proposed, these increases would go entirely into program improvement for three impacted professional programs: the Master of Business Administration, Medical Doctor and Bachelor of Science Engineering. The increases would come into effect in the 2022-2023 academic year, and would only apply to new students. Current students and those starting in the upcoming school year would not be affected. With these proposed increases, tuition costs at the University of Calgary would remain below the average of comparable institutions. We look forward to talking with the minister’s office to hear more about the specifics of the submission,” read the statement. 

For information on the possible tuition increases, visit the U of C website. To read the full statement made by the SU, click here

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