A recent poll of Canadians by Harris/Decima for the Canadian Association of University Teachers confirms what we already knew – Canadians and Albertans are looking for more public investment in their universities and colleges. The telephone poll of over 2,000 Canadians asked a series of questions – not just about post-secondary education, but on a wide range of topics – and here are some of the highlights:
- Most Canadians want more investment in post-secondary education, even if it means an increase in taxes;
- Most Canadians are worried about about post-secondary quality and that governments are not doing enough to secure taxes; and
- Most Canadians support stronger links between industry and our campuses.
Although the next election is still months away here in Alberta there is no doubt that are politicians are already beginning to prepare their election promises and messages and we hope they listen to what it is Albertans are actually looking for when it comes to post-secondary education.
According to the poll, what is it that Canadians are looking for? The largest single answer was to lower fees (48%) followed by creating new spaces (18%), hire more faculty (16%) and support more research (13%). Those are all important recommendations from our perspective as students – and we are excited to see if Alberta’s politicians promise what people are looking for.
Harris/Decima Poll for CAUT (November 11-21, 2010)
Linking increases in non-instructional fees to student approval was covered this weekend in the Calgary Herald and Metro. From the Calgary Herald article:
Three major student organizations are lobbying to close the “loophole” that allows schools to circumvent the province’s tuition cap by tacking on non-instructional fees.
Under the proposal, schools would have to seek the approval of student councils before they either create new fees or raise existing non-instructional fees beyond the rate of inflation.
If the council refused the increase, the question would be put before the students in a referendum.
We are excited to see the progress on the issue – hopefully there will be more good news to share in the new year.
Ed Stelmach’s cabinet quietly changed the rules around raising tuition in Alberta last Thursday through an order-in-council. You can read the new regulation and take a look at the news release that was put out on Thursday evening – but given the time of year and time of day, no one was expecting many news stories to be written about it.
The reason the Government changed the regulation is related to the announcement on April 7 that would raise tuition in six programs at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta starting next September. Those increases would have been illegal if the rules did not change as tuition increases in Alberta are limited to no more than CPI. CAUS fought hard last year to reject the calls to increase tuition and while it was disappointing to see increases in those six programs the majority of proposals were rejected and most students will see an increase next year of no more than 0.35%.
Unfortunately, the new regulation goes further than allowing these six programs to increase. The Minister of Advanced Education and Technology now has the power to circumvent the tuition cap at Alberta’s universities and colleges whenever he or she deems necessary and according to criteria of his or her choosing. Given that Alberta’s institutions already have tuition above the national average, it is not surprising that students are disappointed.
It is important to remember that in the 2008 election the Tories promised to keep the cap, saying they would “extend the commitment to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation.”
CAUS is calling for the government to reverse the amendment and to put the cap on increasing tuition fees into legislation, so that changes to tuition policy have to be made in the Legislature, rather than behind closed doors. And that will involve working with the government to make new rules that will govern tuition increases but also making sure students and Albertans are aware that the rules of the game are changing.
This morning’s University of Alberta Gateway is covering a topic that has been at the top of our priority list since February – regulating non-instructional fees and ensuring that Students’ Unions can send those fees to referendum rather than having them arbitrarily approved by a university’s Board of Governors. The best news is that the Gateway is reporting that:
“At first glance, it appears that the student proposal is definitely on the right track. We anticipate the minister will be providing some additional written feedback in the near future,” Donnan said. “He is very enthused by what the students have brought forward.”
Now that is great news – and the result of months of work by CAUS and its partners. Right now non-instructional fees are permitted to go up by an virtually unlimited amount – provided that the institution is able to provide a justification for labelling them as non-instructional. The joint proposal from CAUS alongside the Alberta Graduate Council and the Alberta Students’ Executive Council calls for those fees to be subject to either a vote by the institution’s students’ council or by referendum of the students affected. You can read more about the issue and look at CAUS’ proposals here.
Right now Alberta has the highest non-instructional fees in the country, with an average undergraduate paying $818 a year over and above their tuition.
The next steps are with the Government, as Alberta Advanced Education and Technology study the proposal and look at creating a new regulation of the Post-Secondary Learning Act, likely sometime at the beginning of 2011. CAUS is hopeful that it will be in effect in time for the new academic year.