Today was a big day for undergraduate students at Athabasca University!
The Board of Governors unanimously passed a budget that approved a change to the course materials fee to allow full transparency, choice and cost savings for students as it relates to texts and etexts.
The Board of Governors unanimously agreed to an amendment to allow existing international students to be grandfathered at a rate of tuition very similar to what they are currently paying, as opposed to a market reset being put in place that will apply to students not currently enrolled at AU.
Today, I can say that student voices were heard.
For several years, AUSU has been advocating for Etext Choice and Cost Savings. You can read our position on this topic here. Under the current system, each student pays $180 in course material fees when we register for a course and AU automatically provides us with our textbook – in paper or etext format included in that price. Students have been concerned with a lack of value when receiving an etext for the same price that we had been paying for a physical textbook and we had asked AU to provide options to students and allow us to benefit from the cost savings associated with etext.
Once the new system is fully implemented, when we register we will pay a course materials fee of only $130, instead of $180. BUT, we will not receive any textbook for that price. Students will then have an option to purchase an etext or new textbook from AU, or obtain a text via other means such as an online or used bookstore, library, or borrowed from a friend. The challenge will be to obtain all of your required reading for less than $50 per course, which may not be possible in all cases. Overall we received exactly what AUSU has asked for; fair disclosure about what we were paying for, and the choice to obtain the course material via the medium we prefer with the corresponding cost savings.
The budget also contained increases to tuition and non-mandatory fees. Non-mandatory undergraduate fees are set to increase by 4% in most cases, as is out-of-province Canadian tuition. Alberta tuition is frozen, so students in Athabasca’s home province will continue to benefit from that regional ruling. Originally, the presented budget included a “market reset” for international tuition – with a proposed increase of $605 more per course for AU students living outside of Canada.
On behalf of undergraduate students at Athabasca University, I presented an amendment to the budget at all levels of budget approval and consultation – to grandfather existing international students with a tuition fee increase of only 10% ($35 per course) – saving them $570 per course! This amendment was unanimously accepted by the Board of Governors. In my statement to the Board, I said that this speaks to the idea that “to the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world.” For those individuals studying at AU abroad, this amendment may allow them to continue their program, where they may not have been able to if they received an increase of $605 per course.
These changes, while approved by the Board, will now need to be implemented. AU would be the place to go to find out the timelines for these changes and how they will affect each individual student. Overall, the impact of the changes approved today once implemented will mean that when registering for courses:
– Alberta students will pay $50 less to register for a 3 credit course
– Out of province Canadian students will pay $26 less to register for a 3 credit course
– Out of country students will pay $15 less to register for a 3 credit course
There have been many times in my career as the AUSU President when I’ve wondered if the work I was doing was making a difference, if we would ever see change or if I was simply wasting my breath. Today, I have a renewed faith in the power of student advocacy and the ability for student leaders to affect change.
Advice from me in the mean time… get on the AUSU mobile app and start connecting with fellow students in your program. Build a network that will come in handy for sharing, selling and buying used textbooks!