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University of Calgary students protest proposed tuition hikes

University of Calgary students protest rising tuition costs
Graduate students at the University of Calgary protested rising tuition costs on Friday. Michael King reports.

Dozens of students protested a proposed tuition hike inside and outside of a University of Calgary board of governors meeting early Friday morning.

“We feel that the university should be advocating on our behalf,” says Lindsay Hracs, who is a PhD student in Linguistics.

“We know they are in a tough situation as well, but we do feel that they should be doing everything they can so we don’t have an increase more than the CPI (consumer price index) that we would experience.”

The U of C Graduate Students’ Association released a letter to the board of governors outlining its opposition to the tuition hikes originally announced by the university’s provost in November.

The proposal outlines graduated increases in tuition beginning in May 2020. Continuing students would face a five per cent increase, new students’ tuition would increase by seven per cent and some programs would see a hike of 10 per cent. While tuition increases for international students are technically not capped, the program tuition limit means new students’ tuition would only go up by 10 per cent.

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Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president of academics at the university would not go into specifics about the proposed hikes, saying full disclosure would come when the board of governors sees the proposal in January.

“We definitely have heard our students and some of their concerns,” Marshall said. “Many of them are very concerned about making ends meet. One of the things we have looked at is with any proposed increase, we will also increase financial aid.

“We have identified some particular groups — international students, for example — where the rates are proposed to be somewhat higher, that those might create more difficult situations. We are going to do everything we can to support students.”

One thing Marshall says the board will definitely not do is put the budget cuts announced in the last provincial budget squarely on the backs of students.

“We do have a philosophy with the budget cuts the university has received, of making sure this is not on the backs of any one group,” Marshall said. “We have a number of stakeholder groups on our campus. We announced last month that 250 people are losing jobs. So you see different groups operating in different ways to create a shared responsibility for budget cuts.

“I want to emphasize this will not be done on the backs of students.”

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But Mohamed Abdelsamie, vice-president of the U of C Graduate Students’ Association, remains unconvinced, saying the increases could put academic careers on hold or even end them prematurely.

“The amount would vary greatly between different programs. It would probably be between $150 and a bit shy of $700,” Abdelsamie said. “It’s a lot of money — $600, to a graduate student, that is. Supporting a family might not be something they could provide.”

The students are also worried the increases this year will also be repeated for the next two years as well.

“If it goes up five per cent and it goes up five per cent for a couple of years, and we are also seeing increases in groceries it’s going to make it really hard for people to afford the basics of life,” said Katelyn, a U of C graduate student who asked Global News not to use her last name. “We are already living below the poverty line.”