The University of Alberta defended proposed tuition hikes to 12 of its programs Wednesday, saying they are necessary to improving the school’s quality of education.
Provost and vice-president (academic) Steven Dew said currently the tuition in the affected undergraduate and graduate programs is significantly lower than that of similar programs in other universities across Canada. The proposed hikes would see increases of between 17 and 104 per cent.
“The reason for considering higher tuition is to be able to invest more in the quality of the programs and the learning experience, and also to be able to provide more financial supports for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the programs, particularly from disadvantaged groups,” Dew said.
“While some of the increases are quite substantial, because tuition in Alberta has been frozen for most of the last decade, these increases really only bring us to about the average of our Canadian competitors, and they allow us to bring sufficient reserve resources to ensure that our content and delivery remains forefront.”
Dew said the MacKinnon report on Alberta’s finances, along with the governing UCP’s policies, has meant the burden for funding post-secondary education has shifted from taxpayers to students. As a result, the university has had to look at all of its programs to ensure tuition reflects cost of delivery. But that’s not the reasoning behind the proposed hikes.
“In this case, what we’re really focused on, however, is quality and how we can improve the experience for our students, and reduce barriers for those who would otherwise have trouble getting in for financial reasons,” Dew said.
He said the additional funds would be able to reduce class sizes, increase experiential learning opportunities, develop more flexible delivery modes, and bring more learning resources into classrooms.
But one of the main concerns students have brought forward is the tuition hikes would disproportionately affect marginalized students and create a significant barrier to education due to the programs becoming unaffordable. But Dew said the university has factored that in.
“We can take some of the tuition and reserve it, specifically to allow us to fund those for whom they’re traditionally underrepresented and traditionally find challenges in the barriers that cost creates,” he said.
He added the university is working to ensure funding decisions are made in a timely manner, and students are made aware of financial aid options if they choose to go to the U of A.
Since the tuition increases are considered exceptional, they would need to be approved by Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides. If approved, the changes would affect new students starting in fall 2022.