The Board of Governors of the University of Calgary convened on Friday, December 8, 2023, to deliberate on a proposed set of tuition and fee increases.
The Board of Governors is the ultimate decision-making body of the institution and is comprised of members from the university administration, the Students’ Union (SU), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), the Faculty Association (TUCFA), the Alumni Association, and public appointees named to their position by the Ministry of Advanced Education.
James Steele, the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) President and representative on the Board of Governors, ardently voiced the challenges faced by graduate students, emphasizing the severe impact of these hikes on both thesis-based and course-based students. His sentiments were echoed by SU President Shazia Jinnah-Morsette, and student-at-large representative Taimur Akhtar, allies in the GSA’s advocacy efforts on this issue.
Despite impassioned appeals from student representatives, the motion to increase fees was regrettably passed, sparking concerns among the student community.
The issues highlighted by the GSA President resonate deeply within the graduate student body. Thesis-based students witness their funding eroded by such increases coupled with inflation, while course-based students face unprecedented tuition levels.
It’s important to recognize that these hikes compound the ongoing challenges faced by students nationwide, such as housing and affordability crises. The plight of international students, often facing distinct and challenging situations, was underscored during the meeting.
Previously, the GSA and student voices were instrumental in securing significant advocacy wins for graduate students. Through engagements with the Tuition and Fees Consultation Committee (TFCC) and active participation in the Graduate Representative Council (GRC) meetings, a series of concessions were promised by the university administration:
- Reduction in international course-based students’ tuition increase from 10 % to 6%
- Improved communication regarding tuition and fee increases to illustrate their impact on program quality.
- Commitment to review and enhance the Graduate Program Administrator structure.
- Formation of an emergency task force to address crises faced by international students.
- Expansion of discussions on minimum funding guarantees for thesis-based graduate students.
Despite these achievements, the impact of any tuition hike on graduate student welfare remains a concern.
These increases are part of a larger policy choice by the provincial government to offset funding cuts to post-secondary education. The Ministry of Advanced Education has significantly reduced the University of Calgary’s operating budget, pushing for a greater reliance on student tuition as a primary source of university funding.
However, evidence from the GSA’s Policy Library contradicts the assumption that these hikes improve education accessibility or quality.
Looking ahead, the GSA remains steadfast in its commitment to fight for graduate students. Collaborating with student associations across the province and engaging various civil society groups, the GSA aims to emphasize the value of a well-funded post-secondary system.
Graduate students are integral to Alberta’s community and economy, and the GSA seeks to ensure the wider public understands this.
Your support as members of the GSA is invaluable. As we progress into the new year, updates on our advocacy efforts and opportunities for students to join our cause will be shared. The GSA remains resolute in its pursuit to make post-secondary education accessible and affordable.
In conclusion, the GSA stands united in its dedication to representing graduate students’ interests. Together, let us work towards a future where education is accessible to all, and where the voices of students are heard and valued.
The GSA Board