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Lack of consultation on tuition hikes forced the SU to take different measures

By Nazeefa Ahmed, November 24 2022

On Sunday, the University of Calgary released a statement to the Calgary Herald, agreeing to delay voting on tuition hikes to give the Student’s Union (SU) more time to consult. The decision comes after SU claimed in a Thursday news release that the university was not willing to stop the vote until the minister of advanced education was written to and the situation was made public.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, SU President Nicole Schmidt described how the university was ultimately approving tuition increases with inadequate reporting of finances and a lack of proper consultation, which violates the Tuition and Fees Regulation and Alberta Tuition Framework.

Before the recent change, elected leaders of the SU were to be consulted only after the Finance and Property Committee of the U of C Board of Governors already voted on the issue. Schmidt states that the SU is usually made aware of tuition increases much earlier. 

“The university must come to our Student Legislative Council (SLC) to consult with students on tuition increases,” said Schmidt. Typically, this process is done well in advance of any type of Board of Governors meeting or Board of Governors vote. This year, however, the university was only going to consult with SLC after one of the board committee votes had already occurred.

“This is a massive problem because obviously, they can’t adequately consult with students if they’re only coming to SLC once the vote has occurred,” Schmidt continued.

In addition, the university, according to Schmidt, inadequately reported on the accounting of mandatory student fees.

“The university is required to report on how it spends student money that is acquired through mandatory fees,” said Schmidt. “This year, the university failed to provide any such report on how it spent student money subsidizing the Dinos athletics fee and also the campus recreation fees.”

Given the ambiguity from the university, the SU wrote a letter to the Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides and the vote was pushed forward to March. However, Schmidt condemns the lack of proper conduct of the university from the beginning.

“We’re very pleased that we have forced the university to postpone its committee and board votes on their latest tuition increases,” said Schmidt. “Had the university listened from the start and consulted with students as they’re required to do under provincial legislation, we could have avoided the situation entirely. It was only until we wrote to the minister and went public with the university not consulting with students that the university changed its tune and that the board vote was delayed.”

This is the second time the minister was involved in consultation conflicts with the university, as the SU also had to write to the minister in 2021 for exceptional tuition increases.

“Back in 2021, the minister, at the request of SU, stepped in and required the university to re-do its consultation on the proposed exceptional tuition increases specifically in two faculties,” said Schmidt. “It appears that the University of Calgary has not really learned its lesson on how to meaningfully consult and engage with students.”

The next step is for the university to discuss tuition hikes with SLC to consult with the faculty representatives. Schmidt says that by then the information will have been made public and students can voice their concerns to SU to decrease tuition, noting the high financial strain any increase will cause on students.

“Increases are a source of financial stress for students,” said Schmidt. “In the last three years we’ve had on average, 25 per cent increases across the board for all programs at the U of C this year. Students are also facing inflation and increases to food and the cost of living. All of these things combined do have a massive impact on students and we want the university to take that into consideration.”

More information and updates about the situation can be found on the SU website.

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