When gas prices and insurance costs increase consumers vehemently demand regulations from the government. Why? Because the government is capable of influencing these companies to keep prices relatively affordable. This is the reason why many post secondary institutions like AU fall under government legislation that imposes strict regulations against tuition increases.
Currently AU is looking to be removed from the tuition policy in the province of Alberta. Under government legislation, AU needs to present increases to tuition to the stakeholders (students and the public) and the Alberta Government. If the increases cannot be justified or the proposed percentage of increase is too high (max. of $267 per full load equivalent per year), tuition does not increase. However, if tuition is deregulated at AU this safety measure will be removed. There will be no more strict regulations and consultation with stakeholders will not be mandatory. In layman’s terms this translates into the possibility of sudden and dramatic increases in tuition for every AU student. It could also translate further into the creation of a post-secondary education obtainable only by those who are able to afford it. Translate it further into a hell of a lot of business and law graduates and few social services graduates. Students will be forced to go into high-income careers just to pay off their student loans.
The question is, why does AU want to be removed from the tuition policy in Alberta? The answer lies in one word: expansion. Unlike most traditional universities, AU’s funding comes mainly from what we pay for tuition, which works out to approximately 70%. The remaining 30% comes from other sources such as government funding and alumni donations. Traditional universities are able to rely on generous alumni and corporate donations, as well as endowments that compose a large percentage of their funding, AU cannot. So, in order to expand and compete with other universities in luring students onto their virtual campus, AU needs money.
Alumni and corporate donations are low, government funding is low, so where will the money come from to expand? Our pockets. Tuition accounts for the majority of AU’s funding, but right now under the tuition policy they can only raise it as high as the government allows. Once removed from the tuition policy, if their campaign is successful, they will have fewer restrictions and raising tuition will not be the arduous process it once was, which in turn will direct less attention on obtaining other revenue sources.
Instead of concentrating on expansion, shouldn’t AU be concentrating on educating the students they presently have? Instead of lobbying the Alberta government to remove AU from the tuition policy, shouldn’t their efforts be concentrated on lobbying the other provincial and territorial governments across Canada for funding or even the feds for that matter, since AU is CANADA’S Open Learning University?
As students we are consumers of education and we have the right to demand that AU remain under the tuition policy to ensure that each and every one of us will be able to afford to complete our degrees. We also need AU to remain under the tuition policy to avoid encouraging other universities and governments to look toward tuition deregulation, which could possibly prohibit our children from attending university. Voice your comments and concerns on this issue on the student discussion forums http://www.ausu.org, accessible under “Message Forums” on the top menu bar.
KEEP EDUCATION AFFORDABLE FOR ALL!
Let us know what you think. Send your comments on this issue to firstname.lastname@example.org for the next Sounding Off column.