Tuition increases in Alberta are capped at seven per cent, but the Alberta Tuition Framework allows for post-secondary institutions to apply for what are called “exceptional increases.” These increases need the approval of the Minister of Advanced Education, but only if the revenue from the increased tuition results in “improvements in program quality.”
According to both schools, the tuition hikes will only apply to new domestic students entering in the fall 2022 semester and beyond.
In an interview with Global News, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said it is the first time the regulation has been used.
“I wanted to ensure that we were following the regulation to the tee, to ensure that there’s clear demonstration that the increases will substantially improve the quality of the program, that the institution has engaged in substantial consultation with students,” Nicolaides said. “We sent the proposals back originally because I didn’t see some of those pieces demonstrated.”
According to the Nicolaides, incoming students in the Master of Business Administration will pay $4,776 more, students in the Bachelor of Science in Engineering will pay $2,085 more and students in the Doctor of Medicine program will pay $2,781 more.
Nicole Schmidt, president of the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union, said students are already concerned about affordability after three consecutive years of tuition hikes averaging about 25 per cent.
“Students are going further and further into debt to pay their tuition and they’re having fewer opportunities to gain financial support in the form of grants or bursaries or non-repayable loans,” Schmidt said.
In a statement to Global News, the University of Calgary said the money from tuition increases will be directed to “enhancements to program quality and the student experience.”
University officials included examples of some program enhancements, including “experiential learning opportunities, scholarships and bursaries, enhancements to career services, program instructional improvements, new resources such as engineering lab kits, funds to encourage diversity in medical simulation laboratory materials, greater diversity of patient representatives in the curriculum, and the purchase of diverse multi-media assets for physical exam teaching.”
Schmidt said the Students Union is working to get metrics from the University of Calgary to determine how the money will be spent.
“We’ve yet to see where exactly, which areas specifically, the tuition will go towards,” Schmidt said.
It comes after the Alberta NDP obtained documents showing increases to tuition for 12 programs at the University of Alberta.
The documents show programs including business, engineering, law, medicine and pharmacy getting tuition increases of between 16 to 71 per cent.
“It’s unfortunate for me to say, as somebody who loves the U of A, but I just don’t think the value that U of A offers right now can possibly justify these prices,” University of Alberta Students’ Union president Rowan Ley told Global News.
David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said he is concerned the increases to tuition will force students to seek post-secondary education elsewhere.
“If you’re, number one, taking such dramatic cuts to these places, it’s harder to keep the lights on,” Eggen told Global News. “Number two, these extraordinary tuition increases are just going to simply shut the door for many people to be able to go to school.
“So at a time when we really do want to build and diversify the province, this UCP government is just making life unaffordable.”
According to Nicolaides, tuition in Alberta “remains below the national average.”
The advanced education minister added the budget includes $167 million in student assistance, including $12 million over three years for existing scholarships and $15 million over three years for new bursaries for low-income students.
“We want to ensure that every Albertan who wants to pursue post secondary education has the ability to do so,” Nicolaides said.