Editorial—Tuition Lockdown

Recently, it was announced that the NDP government of Alberta has decided that tuition at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions will remain frozen this year, and also expects universities to not raise any of the mandatory fees that they typically require. The government promises to backfill funding to make up for what the allowed increases in tuition would provide a post-secondary institution had it been allowed to raise its tuition and fees as normal.

The backdrop of this, however, is that the finance minister has also recently called for all public employees to be willing to accept a 0% wage increase this year at the bargaining table, echoing the freeze the government has put on all non-union wages.  This has prompted some interesting discussion about whether the public sector unions should accept Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s recommendation, or if they should stand against it.  On one side of the issue, it’s argued that by allowing the NDP to take the easy way out of freezing pay on public employees rather than the harder task of raising or expanding taxes to cover reasonable increases does not set a good precedent.  On the other side of the debate, it is argued that the alternative, which would likely be a UCP government, would be an even worse turn of events for the public sector unions.

This debate will have real consequences for AU students.  If the public sector unions decide to refuse the 0% increases, it could lead to strikes, such as we recently saw in Ontario.  This could have a large effect on all students taking courses this year, and if it subsequently leads to a UCP government, we can expect the time of tuition freezes will be over.  On the other hand, accepting a 0% increase means it simply becomes harder for Alberta post-secondary institutions to compete for top academic talent for both education and research.  One thing most people fail to take into account when looking at the wages of the public sector in Alberta is that the cost of living is higher than you’ll find in most other provinces—driven, in part, by the premiums that the oil industry is willing to pay to ensure they have enough labour at the oil sands.

The other news that’s getting attention in academic circles is the treatment of a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University.  Our feature article, by new writer Jaclyn van Beek, looks directly at the issue, explaining what happened and why it matters to all students.  It’s once again revived the debate as to whether university courses are providing education or indoctrination.  (For what it’s worth, the evidence suggests that if there is indoctrination occurring, it isn’t working.)

Also in this issue, many of us have probably heard of courses or tutors who make getting 100% in a course an impossibility.  I have heard of tutors explicity saying they will not give 100% for an essay, as that implies there is no possibility for improvement.  But is that really what 100% means?  And is that a fair assessment for a student if they can demonstrate mastery of the course requirements?  We explore this in our article, “Gambling for Grades,” but what’s your take on the matter?

And, of course, we have our selection of events, scholarships, thought provoking articles, advice, and other pieces to keep you thinking when you need a break from your studies.

Enjoy the read!

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