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Tuition Troubles

Statistics Canada released its annual study ( on tuition fees earlier this month, and the results will come as no surprise to most post-secondary students. The study determined that the average student will be paying 7.4% more in tuition this year than last, the largest increase over the past four years.

A good portion of this rise is actually made up in British Columbia, where tuition rose more than 30% for students there, but Alberta is no slouch either, with an increase of 7.7%, more than any province or territory with the exceptions of BC and Saskatchewan.

Things aren’t much better on the graduate side of the picture, where tuition rose 6.8%, with Alberta having the highest increase of 13.1%, almost double the national average.

For comparison’s sake, the CPI or inflation rate ( was only 4.3% over the past year.

Now, to bring this all together, consider that the fastest that grants and total provincial student finance tends to increase is at the rate of inflation. This means that, regardless of the government’s stated intentions, poor people are actually going to have a harder time affording a post-secondary education.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find your MP’s address ( and write them a brief letter asking them why they do not want poor people to be able to afford a post-secondary education. For extra credit, find your MLA’s address from your provincial government’s website ( and write them a letter asking the same question.

Students living in Newfoundland, Manitoba, or Quebec are not eligible for extra credit. Apparently your MLA’s have some sense and tuition increased less than the inflation rate. In fact, those of you in Newfoundland & Labrador should actually write a thank you letter. Your provincial government has managed to lower tuition by 4.5 percent this year.

If Newfoundland & Labrador can manage to do that, how come the province with the “Alberta Advantage” seems so far behind?

University of Alberta takes Innovative Approach

Not willing to sit on its laurels, and realizing that funding problems can not simply be handled by looking wistfully at tuition regulations, the University of Alberta has managed to acquire ( four and a half million dollars of additional funding from the Alberta Government.

How did they manage to do this? By taking some initiative. The University of Alberta worked out a deal with the Department of Paediatrics, the Calgary Health Region, Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Learning, and the Alberta Medical Association to set up a better compensation program for academic physicians – that is, to pay doctors to teach medical courses to students. Since Athabasca University has a rather large contingent of nursing students, it seems that there is nothing really preventing AU from pursuing this same type of deal – except that they didn’t, and now somebody else already has.

It seems strange that it is the traditional universities that are increasingly taking a non-traditional approach to funding, while our non-traditional university seems unwilling or unable to come up with anything beyond the traditional sources of seeking funding from graduates (which they know they do not have many of) or from current students (who they know can not afford it).

I’m not even asking that AU be successful in their attempts to seek out funding in unusual or unique ways, I’d just like to see some evidence that they’re trying to do so. Just take a look at AU’s press release page (, and see if you can find anything about AU setting up partnerships to gain extra funding. The closest that we have is a national research chair awarded to Dr. Martin Connors almost a year ago. If that’s the best that AU can come up with, there’s little wonder that it’s having a difficult time dealing with tuition issues, the tuition regulation imposes a cap on tuition based on the total amount of revenue a university generates. AU generates practically no revenue outside of tuition and government grants, yet do not understand why they seem to be so badly penalized by the system.

Unfortunately, under Premier Klein’s unstated privatization mandate, it is obvious that he expects every university to go beyond those two sources of income. AU has failed to do this, but instead of dealing with the consequences, is looking for a way out. Let’s hope that if they find it, they also do not give Klein the excuse to fully privatize AU.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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