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University of Calgary students join the call for tuition and fee freeze

Students signed up for the Get Out the Vote effort in the lead up to Alberta's 2023 provincial election.

Students were encouraged to raise post-secondary issues this upcoming provincial election, as some say they’re being forced to make the choice between food and studies with continually rising costs.

On March 27, dozens of University of Calgary students rallied at MacEwan Student Centre for a reverse in cuts and a freeze in the tuition increase for the 2023-2024 school year.

In January, the UCalgary Board of Governors approved an increase of 5.5 per cent for domestic students and international students. International students entering in the fall of 2024 will face an additional increase, bumping up their tuition to 6.5 per cent.

That has students peeved over continually rising costs, and questioning if UCalgary is the right place for them.

“I don’t know that I can keep studying here. It’s getting too expensive, and I can’t do my studies and also work to pay for them,” said Salama Qadir, an international student who works part-time.

According to Nicole Schmidt, President of the SU, 20 per cent of students told them they’d have to drop out for not being able to pay for their education.

Despite paying more, Mateusz Salamassi, Vice President of UofC’s SU, said students are still dealing with crumbling infrastructure, fewer advisers, and fewer teaching assistants.

“The provincial government has pushed students to a breaking point,” Salamassi said.

“Students are telling us they are making tough choices between affording their education and basics like housing and food.”

U of C also increases the mandatory student fees

In February, the province capped tuition increases at 2 per cent. While tuition was capped, mandatory fees continue to rise. The province did not cap mandatory fees for students.

Domestic students have seen their tuition increase by 33 per cent or $1,200 a year over since 2019. Students currently pay more than $1,000 annually in mandatory fees.

In Budget 2023, Finance Minister Travis Toews said an additional $189 million would be invested in Targeted Enrolment Expansion (TEE) over three years. Calgary saw nearly $85 million in TEE program funding for 3,000 additional seats.

Tied around the growing rate of inflation, some students and the SU feel like the $189 million destined for the TEE program won’t make much of a difference in financially supporting students. Some students also worry that the TEE program will make cuts in the programs the UCP deems less important and move funding to where they consider best.

Mia Reese, a domestic student feels like the program wasn’t created to help students, but the university.

“The Targeted Enrollment Program doesn’t do anything to directly support students. It’s just a blanket program from making students believe the government is actually looking to help us. Only the university benefits from this, it’s the same reason they’re asking for mandatory fees,” said Reese.

Apart from tuition, UofC is also upping residence fees, which will grow between two and six per cent, depending on the building and bedroom type. 

Student Services, Campus Recreation and Athletics will also face a 5.5 per cent fee increase. Finally, parking permit rates on campus will increase by four per cent. The last increase was three per cent in 2022-2023.

Get Out The Vote for post-secondary funding

Although the budget meeting and decision-making for the upcoming school year took place on February 28, 2023, students are calling for a reverse in increases before it comes into effect May 1.

Student members of the board wanted to delay the tuition vote until March to allow for more time and consultation with students. According to the SU, the motion was voted down.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott, who attended the rally on Monday, asked the students to come together and stand up for a dignified education.

“Power is not taken. Power is shared. Power is in the collection of wisdom altogether,” Walcott said.

In light of the situation, the Student Union (SU) launched its May provincial election student Get Out The Vote (GOTV) at the rally, encouraging students to vote with post-secondary education funding in mind.