Non-instructional fees should be responsible, accountable and predictable

November 23, 2010

Alberta has the highest non-instructional mandatory fees in Canada, at $818 on top of tuition for the average undergraduate. This is due in large part to imposition of new fees at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary of $290 and $450 a year respectively. Those increases are permitted due to the government’s lax rules surrounding new fees.

The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) believes the Government of Alberta should immediately pass a regulation that covers non-instructional fees, providing limits and collegial mechanisms to govern the creation and increase of those fees, as well as a clear delineation between fees governed by the Tuition Fee Policy and those that are not.

Gaining the approval of students should be an essential component of any new fee or increasing an existing one. Referenda represents the ultimate method of gauging student opinion and ensuring the legitimacy and accountability of the new fee. CAUS has looked at past referenda at our three campuses and in each case students have been good judges at determining what is a good value and what initiatives have merit not just for themselves, but the campus as a whole.

Either within the present Tuition Fees Regulation or a new non-instructional fees regulation, the definition of both tuition and non-instructional fees should be clearly established. Some good principles to base these definitions on include:

  • Tuition and operating funding should provide for a learning environment on campus
  • Non-instructional fees should be levied on non- instruction items
  • Non-instructional fees should adhere strictly to a cost-recovery model
  • Non-instructional fees should only be levied following consultation with the students’ council and a campus-wide student referendum

CAUS believes that this should be formalized within regulation, proposing that all new fees and increases beyond CPI be subject to a vote at our students’ council or go to a campus-wide referendum. This process and referenda specifically has provided the framework for dozens of new services on our campuses and has showcased the student bodies on our campuses as being reasonable and able to make wise decisions that have an impact not just on their cohort, but beyond.

Inflationary increases to non-instructional fees would not be subject to the same standard. Increases measured against the consumer price index could bypass a referendum or students’ council vote and be approved directly by an institution’s board of governors, depending on the governing authority of the fee.

Joint Proposal from AGC, ASEC and CAUS on Fees

Responsible, Accountable, Predictable: Why Referenda is the Best Method of Setting Fees

Setting the Rules on Non-Instructional Fees