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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

tuition tinkering in alberta.

Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner has said that he will accept and review requests from Alberta's Post-Secondary Institutions to increase their base tuition rates beyond what is currently allowed under Alberta's tuition policy. Whatever your thoughts on the cost of tuition - whether you believe in the strength of communities or individual investment (or a mixture of the two) - it is important to understand some of the context in which this posturing is occurring. This is not simply a result of tough economic times, the Government and Institutions have both attempted to and successfully tinkered with the tuition policy a number of times in recent years.

During very prosperous economic times in March 2006, the Presidents of the University of Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Athabasca sent a letter to Minister Dave Hancock proposing that tuition increases be based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation plus 3.5 per cent.

In the letter, the presidents warn Alberta is falling behind. "Alberta lags behind the national average in post-secondary spaces, a serious problem as we seek to provide the workforce needed for an expanding economy."

Students are also frustrated the presidents drafted a proposal without consulting them, saying they were under the impression a joint bid would be submitted to Hancock.

[University of Calgary Students' Union President BryanWest called the proposal a "backroom deal."

"We were all going to put forward one letter, with one profound and powerful voice," said West who sits on the steering committee with the presidents and other stakeholders. "We feel really hurt by this and wonder if they were playing us all along."
The day following my election as Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students in May 2006, I sat in front of the cameras with Liberal MLA Dave TaylorNDP MLA Raj PannuBill Moore-Kilgannon from Public Interest Alberta, and Jon Hoffman from ACTISEC to oppose the passage of Bill 40: Post-Secondary Learning Amendment Act.

Introduced during the (thankfully) short-lived tenure of Minister Denis Herard, Bill 40 removed Alberta's tuition policy from the Post-Secondary Learning Act, thus removing the insurance that Albertans had that any changes to the policy governing the cost of post-secondary education would need to be debated in a public forum.
“We’re prepared to wait until the next time the legislature meets to have a new policy implemented, so that the policy is embedded in an act of the legislature,” said David Cournoyer, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) and University of Alberta Students’ Union Vice President External. “If the tuition policy is not in legislation, it is no good to us.”
Universities and colleges in Alberta are currently limited to increasing tuition by CPI inflation (at a maximum), but because the tuition policy is now under regulation it can be changed in the privacy of a closed door Cabinet meeting. No public debate required.


Vincent said...

Well, this is just another kick in the face.

There's less jobs now to pay for my education because of the recession (with youth unemployment being the highest in decades)... And now they're raising the prices on me.

This will not end well for Canada, Alberta, or myself.

The political situation is even more dire. The Wild Rose will probably screw this up worse, seeing that they'll strive to cut funding for everything. PCs have their heads up their asse. Greens have been disbanded. The NDP are, well, the NDP. Is there anyone to stand up for students and the education-based economy that Canada is going to become a direct part of?

I know students can't do it alone, of course. 311% increase of tuition over the last 20 years attests to this reality.

I suppose I'm doomed.

I look forward to seeing comments from other people. :(

Anonymous said...

There must be more to this story. Why are they increasing tuition? Are they cutting funding?

Anonymous said...

I'm against differential tuition, but after years of reading letters to the Gateway from engineering students... a tiny part of me gets some satisfaction from the idea of engineering students paying differential tuition.

Anonymous said...

So Bill 40 took away the need for public debate on changes to the Post Secondary Act.

And now Bill 50 proposes to take away the need for public debate on Energy policy.

Notice a disturbing trend there? I can't possibly imagine what changes they have in mind now that they've opened up the School act.

Albertans need to toss these assholes out before they completely dismantle our democratic traditions.

Anonymous said...

What a tool Denis Herard was to put this in for the first place. Costs way too much. Students should pay their own way - they benefit from their education, not the rest of us.

Mark said...

"they benefit from their education, not the rest of us."

Try to remember that you made that statement next time you to to the doctor, or send your kid off to school in the morning.

Berry Farmer said...

Dear Anon,

I'm with you brudder.

"they benefit from their education, not the rest of us."

Yep, make every student pay the full shot for her higher education... then we can keep them poor people out of universities and colleges, where they obviously don't belong... being poor in the first place, and all.

Yup, nuthin' bedder fur the pubic gud.

The market rules! No money for anyone but those who profit.

Let the weak and the meek fend for themselves.

Yeah, my kind of society.

Anonymous said...

The student loan program (along with scholarships, bursaries, and private loans) is what provides access to the system for people of all incomes.

University students should not be completely shielded from the marketplace. Right now we are only paying for a TINY fraction of the value of our education and yet we whine that it is too much because of our sense of entitlement.
The bottomline is, if students wish the University to offer high quality programs, teaching and facilities, they need to pony up and pay a fair share.

Anonymous said...

The poor people can apply for subsidies, bursaries, and loans on an individual basis. The example of doctors - ever met a poor doctor?

No one goes to school to benefit society. It's so they can have a better living. And there's nothing wrong with it. Just stop the tax subsidies that the working class pay for.

Lawrence said...

But them going to school does benefit society. We need people to go to post secondary.

I have a full time course load and I am working twenty hours a week. Dont say every student has a sense of entitlement.

Anonymous said...

No one goes to school with the goal "to benefit society".

It is like saying to a working class person that they should pay higher taxes so you can go to school so you can do better than them. I don't think so.

Stop subsidies to post-secondary education.

ab_baby said...

I was part of the student union/CAUS fight against Bill 40 and I believe we had reason on our side. Students also argued against Ralph's freeze on the basis that universities would play catch-up in a big way down the road. Unfortunately we are now seeing the impact of these decisions, further proof that this government simply makes things up as it goes along.

The attitude that students should pay their own way is shortsighted at the very least. All this does is make postsecondary education the domain of the rich and elite. Everyone benefits from having a well-educated society and workforce. If tuition were more affordable we would not have a doctor shortage in this province, and perhaps we might actually have elected representatives who are not high-school dropouts.

Student loans are not the answer. My daughters and myself are first generations to attend university, and we did it solely through loans - which we are all now struggling to pay back. To add insult to injury, my eligibility for loans ended in my final year of graduate school, so I was left trying to find enough money to complete my degree on my own.

And believe me, when you are a new graduate working at an entry-level position, it takes years to pay off a student loan (mine's in the 50,000 range). Many students are taking longer to complete their degrees because they are working at the same time, many have families, and many try to actively participate in their communities at the same time. (something postsecondary education promotes)

I know very few, if any, students with a "sense of entitlement" - except, perhaps those lucky ones who have wealthy families and who have the luxury of fully paid tuition.

Anonymous said...

Why should we subsidize the tuition of the wealthy with the taxes of the middle class? Subsidize students thriugh loans and tuition remission but only on an individual basis. I agree with two posts above.

Anonymous said...

Total Cost of a university education both private a public sourced: approx $50,000 for 4 years. That includes living expenses etc.

Average amount that the average 4yr graduate earns over their lifetime above a non-graduate? $1,000,000.

Taxation at AB rate of 10% for that million:$100K

That a 2x rate of return for the government if they paid the entire cost for every student -- including living expenses. They only pay 66% of tuition, and actually gain money on the interest from student loans.

And that's ignoring the ancilliary benefits such as university graduates are about twice as likely to start a successful business (thus employing more people), are unemployed less often and for shorter periods (thus taking less EI and welfare), and tend to be healthier if only because they can afford a better diet and less stressful/physically demanding life-style (so cost less in health care dollars as well)

If we want lower taxes we should be demanding that the government [i]make[/i] anybody who has the aptitude for post-secondary take it. Or if we're not willing to go there, at least that there are absolutely no barriers beyond aptitude that prevent a person from getting their post-secondary.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they earn more further solidifies the point that taxpayers shouldn't subsidize their education at all.

Anonymous said...

Damn straight.. how dare they get more if I don't. Just because they invest 4 years of their life into improving their skills while I eat cheezies and watch Wheel of Fortune doesn't mean they deserve it more than me, even if it does mean my taxes get lower.

Anonymous said...

Very insulting to everyone who chooses a career/life path that doesn't involve post secondary education.

David said...

One thing I HATE about the statement that "they can pay their own way through loans" etc is that parental income is taken into consideration until a student has been out of highschool for four years. This leavs students who have parents that do not see the value of an education out in the cold, as there is nothing to force parents to pay for that education if their children don't qualify for loans because parental income is too high.
It also only takes into account the current income of the parents. A family that just went through several years of unemployment would not have had the ability to save anything for their children's education, but the loans system treats them the same as a family that was earning that income consistently for years.

The loan system also penalizes students who actually save money over "non-study" periods, like the summer. If I were to work all summer, and save $10,000 that $10,000 what I am eligible to recive in loans is reduced by $10,000. Meanwhile, if someone else chose to blow all the money they earn over the summer, or to go travel around Europe etc and not earn anything, they are eligible for more loans. Sure, that means they have a higher debt-load than I do, but guess what? Since they have a higher debt load, they're eligible for more loan remitance at the end of their degree when they finish than I am.

The student aid/loan system need a major overhaul.

Anonymous said...

and to think groups like the Canadian Federation of Students want free tuition. Talk about entitlemania.

Anonymous said...

Fun fact: Karl Marx also argued against the taxes of the working class going to pay for the university education of the rich. Everyone here arguing against the subsidization of post-secondary has a communist brother-in-arms for their cause.

Fight for the Taxpayer! said...

Tory staffers must have a lot of taxpayer subsidized free time to post so many anonymous comments on this blog today.

jerrymacgp said...

This is a deeply ideological debate, which pits those arch-conservatives who feel that higher education should be a user-pay, market driven commodity, and those on the left of the spectrum who feel that higher education benefits society and therefore should be supported by society, and that cost should not be a barrier to attaining a higher education. There is no reconciling these two positions outside of the larger political context of which party is in power in Alberta.

As for myself, I hold firmly to the leftist position. The wealthy should pay for their children's higher education through progressive taxation, not through direct tuition increases that also bar children of lower income families from participating.

Anonymous said...

It is great to see debate on real policy and ideology - not faux labels like "post partisanship".

EvilIncoherent said...

Anon@3:08 == It's insulting only to those petty, vile people who'll happily cut off their nose to spite their face. What does it matter to someone if a post-secodnary graduate benefits from subsidization? What should matter to each of us is whether we do.. and we do.

The higher revenues and lower demand on services that post-secondary graduates provide means the government can provide the same services at a lower rate of taxes.

The higher number of small businesses means it's more likely we can find jobs, or just as important, less likely other people will be unemployed and sucking on the government teat. Again meaning a lower rate of taxes for us.

The more post-secondary graduates there are using less medical services means the lower our wait times are when we need to use them.

And that doesn't even touch some of the biggest benefits.. StatsCan has shown that the most likely predictor of whether someone takes post-secondary education isn't money, isn't where they live, isn't how smart they are in high school.. it's whether their parents did. Statscan has also shown that the most likley predictor of how much gov't funding a person will need to take university is how high a degree their parents recieved.

So by putting just one generation through post-secondary, we start a virtuous cycle requiring less and less money from the gov't (read, me and you as taxpayers) to get more and more benefits (lower wait times, more jobs, lower taxes, etc.)

Not to mention if post-secondary was fully subsidized, there'd be no pressure for universities to pass students that simply aren't up to snuff in order to keep their funding. That means that the decline of the *worth* of a post-secondary education would stop.

So really, the only people against subsidizing post-secondary education are those who don't know the facts, or those who are so petty that they'd rather suffer themselves rather than see anybody else do well.

Anonymous said...

What an ignorant and fanatical last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

No you are!

Average Albertan said...

The Universities want to raise tuition so they can keep on funding their executives golden salaries, pensions, and perks.

Instead of pouring hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars gold plated research centers, the Universities should focus on what they were created to do: provide quality affordable education to real Albertans.

It's time to get back to the basics, folks.

Anonymous said...

If the University of Alberta wants to penalize students for their financial mismanagement by increasing tuition by that amount then they can expect me to discontinue my annual alumni donation.

Karen Dhalla
(B.Com 1995)

Roman said...

Most importantly, why aren't you wearing a suit in that photo?

Anonymous said...

Actually that cartoon should show the taxpayer being wrung out - given how much we pump into education that benefits the students. What a colossal waste of money.

Roman said...

Like all that funding for K-12. And hospitals? Who benefits from that?

Anonymous said...

Doctors, Engineers, Teachers, Nurses, Pharmacists, Social Workers are all overrated. Haven't you watched Mad Max?