Student reps at University of Alberta raise concerns over 'absolutely outrageous' proposed tuition hikes

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Proposed tuition hikes at the University of Alberta are “extreme,” “disappointing” and “outrageous,” according to student representatives.

The increases would affect 12 undergraduate and graduate programs and range from 17 per cent to 104 per cent for students beginning their programs in the fall of 2022.

Joel Agarwal, president of the University of Alberta Students’ Union, said the proposed increases are “absolutely outrageous.”

“We’ve already been seeing tuition increases of seven per cent for the last two years, so this is really a disappointment to students,” he said.

Students have already been feeling the effects of those increases.

“Students are having to take up more jobs, students have emailed me asking how they can transfer universities because they can’t afford it here,” he said. “It’s disheartening, it’s saddening because the most vulnerable students are most affected.”

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Argarwal said the tuition hikes, paired with a poor student aid program in the province, will affect the poorest students the most.

“(It) will really have an impact of affordability and accessibility compared to other provinces of Canada,” he said.

Marc Waddingham, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, said in his three years he’s never seen a suite of tuition increase proposals like these before.

The master’s in counselling psychology with thesis and master’s in counselling psychology, both graduate programs, would see the highest percentage increases under the proposals, at 104 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.

“Understanding that the university obviously has to recoup costs and they’ve kind of been put in the same position as us, vis-à-vis the budget cuts,” Waddingham said, “I do think that this represents a regression from what a graduate student should be considered as, which is an active participant in our academic mission.”

He said people who graduate with master’s and doctorate degrees are critical, high-value personnel.

“By cutting funding for post-secondary institutions and putting the burden on the backs of students, we are really kneecapping those next generation of really important people when we talk about the future for our province,” Waddingham said.

“But also the future for many of the young people who are going through our K-12 system, who are also going to want to pursue advanced education in the province.”

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The University of Alberta did not immediately provide comment following a request by Postmedia.

NDP advanced education critic David Eggen also criticized the proposed hikes during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, blaming the hikes on funding cuts to universities made by the province.

“It would be wildly irresponsible for Jason Kenney to allow for these tuition hikes to go through while we deal with a massive economic downturn due to COVID-19,” Eggen said.

“Access to post-secondary is a key to our economic recovery and the UCP fuelled this tuition hike with their constant and decimating budget cuts to Alberta’s universities, colleges, and polytechnics.”

Since the proposed increases are considered extraordinary, they would need approval from Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides. When asked about the increases on Tuesday, Nicolaides said he had not yet seen the proposals.

“After we receive the proposal we will conduct a rigorous analysis to make sure it’s compliant with the regulation and to make a final decision at that time.”

Proposed undergraduate program tuition hikes:

JD (law): from $11,701 to $16,967 (+$5,265, 45 per cent)

PharmD (pharmacy): from $11,431 to $16,461 (+$5,029, 44 per cent)

DDS (dentistry): from $23,109 to $32,352 (+$9,243, 40 per cent)

APDDS (dentistry): from $57,093 to $79,930 (+$22,837, 40 per cent)

BSc in engineering: from $7,309 to $9,100 (+$1,790, 24.5 per cent)

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BComm (business): from $8,012 to $9,775 (+$1,762, 22 per cent)

BSc in radiation therapy: from $6,091 to $7,309 (+$1,218, 20 per cent)

BSc in medical laboratory science: from $7,512 to $8,789 (+$1,277, 17 per cent)

Proposed graduate program tuition hikes:

Master’s in counselling psychology with thesis: from $4,192 to $8,574 (+$4,381, 104 per cent)

Master’s in counselling psychology: from $4,287 to $8,574 (+$4,287, 100 per cent)

MBA (business): from $14,380 to $24,015 (+$9,635, 67 per cent)

MEng (engineering): from $7,345 to $9,034 (+$1,689, 23 per cent)

*Numbers provided by the University of Alberta Students’ Union

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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