By Enobong Ukpong, October 26 2021—
This week’s Students’ Legislative Council (SLC) meeting was held on Oct. 19. The main topic of discussion was the approval of University and Government Relations Committee (UGRC) recommendations on the University of Calgary’s Exceptional Tuition proposal.
In a unanimous vote, the SLC approved the UGRC recommendation that Students’ Union (SU) President Nicole Schmidt vote against exceptional tuition increases in the Board of Governors meeting on Oct. 22.
These exceptional tuition increases see a significant rise in tuition in select domestic and international engineering and medical programs for the Fall 2022 semester.
This marks the second time the SLC has voted against the Fall 2022 exceptional tuition increase proposal.
Schmidt stated that the UGRC arrived at these recommendations after considering the lack of proper consultation and the lack of incorporation of student consultation and feedback into the current draft of the Exceptional Tuition proposals.
No one in the SU has been allowed to access the proposals that the University of Calgary is submitting to the Minister of Advanced Education, and the university has claimed that the proposals have incorporated student feedback.
“We haven’t really seen anything concrete from them to suggest that they’ve really taken student feedback and incorporated it in a meaningful or constructive way into these proposals,” said Schmidt.
The UGRC also believes that approving exceptional tuition increases sends a message to the provincial government that the university is happy to accept cuts and will simply pass these cuts along to the students.
“This is especially problematic because the guidelines for exceptional tuition increase proposals specify that the proposals must center on program quality improvements and not be used to balance the university’s budget,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt stated that despite these guidelines, the university openly referenced budgetary concerns during consultations with the SLC and in the media to justify these proposals.
“From the perspective of the medical students that I’ve talked to and other medical students in the Cumming School of Medicine in general, it appears that there isn’t a lot of support for the exceptional tuition increases,” said Rafael Sanguinetti, Cumming School of Medicine representative.
Sanguinetti noted that a lot of students feel that the tuition increases will not adequately increase the quality of the education offered. He also said that students didn’t feel like their feedback was incorporated into the tuition increase proposals.
Moreover, Sanguinetti continued to discuss how MD students feel that it’s ineffective to increase tuition and bursaries, and suggest increasing tuition by a lesser degree so there isn’t a need for additional bursaries.
“Overall, I’m still against these increases,” said Taimur Akhtar, Schulich School of Engineering representative. “They’re ill-timed and it seems we have little to no student consultations on these.”
The provincial government did deem last September that student consultation was sufficient, only that the process was started too late in the academic year. However, Areeb Qayyum, Faculty of Kinesiology representative, disagrees.
“Given that our fundamental reasoning for exceptional tuition increases is for the benefit of the students, I am firmly of the opinion that the students need to be the one making this determination as to whether or not it was good or sufficient consultation, not the Alberta government,” said Qayyum.
Schmidt stated that the SU is creating a consultation guideline document in order to prevent these issues from happening in the future.
Schmidt will vote against the exceptional tuition increases at the Board of Governors meeting on Friday, Oct. 22. However, if the Board of Governors does approve the exceptional tuition increase proposal, the SU has a chance to advocate directly to the Minister of Advanced Education.
Agendas, minutes and upcoming meetings for SLC can be found online.