January 2018 Executive Blog
Paying for School
Financing your post-secondary education will be one of the largest expenses in your lifetime, and, according to Maclean’s magazine, could result in an average cost of nearly $20,000/year (Brown, 2017). That’s why I am keenly aware of my responsibility to voice your need to keep the costs of tuition and fees low, and the opportunities for student aid and financial benefits high. The topic of paying for school is a multi-faceted one, and I’d like to share what we’ve done on your behalf recently to try to keep school affordable.
In November, the Alberta Government announced that tuition and mandatory instructional fees would remain frozen at 2015 levels for the 2018/2019 school year (Graney, 2017). I was honestly surprised by this announcement, and I immediately feared for the approximately 65% of AUSU members who reside outside of Alberta. As we have seen over the last several years, when AU isn’t able to increase revenue through Alberta students, it is the out of province students who carry the even heavier load.
Further, the Alberta government has been working on numerous lengthy reviews that were anticipated to provide a sustainable structure for predictable tuition and fees.
It was disappointing to see an extended freeze as opposed to the results of the comprehensive tuition and fee review and PSI funding model review. AUSU issued a press release on the topic here. At AUSU, we know that the majority of our members are working, and have more financial obligations than the average university student in Canada.
Additionally, less than 5% of AU students receive student aid of any kind. For students like us, federal and provincial tuition tax credits are one of many tools that we use to finance our education. I was surprised to learn that student organizations in Alberta and across the country were openly advocating to remove the tuition tax credit, and replace it with up-front, needs based grants. AUSU council unanimously carried a position policy on the importance of tax credits for AU students, you can find it here. We are a member of the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations, which was voting on a position policy to remove tax credits as well. I wrote a passionate letter to the delegation of CASA, and while there were some other members opposed to the position at CASA, it was carried. You can read my letter here. The AUSU executive council has requested a meeting with the Alberta Finance Minister, and we hope to bring our concerns directly to him, in hopes of creating awareness of the damage that removing tax credits will do to affordability for students who are working or studying part time.
Closer to home, you may remember that in my July Blog, I wrote about changes that were coming to how AU delivers course materials. This was a controversial topic, but I supported AU’s move toward a more traditional course material delivery model, where students would seek out their own course materials and pay based on what they purchased. This came after years of advocacy for student choice and cost savings as related to etext, based on an approved AUSU position policy. The end result would mean that some students would end up paying more, but some would end up paying less, and everyone would be able to select the material they prefer and pay ONLY for that. To date, this has not been rolled out, and at the December 15 meeting of the AU Board of Governors, the Board approved a delay on the implementation of the course material fee change. For the time being, we will continue to pay $180 in course materials fees to AU and receive all learning materials direct from the University. The good news is that some students will see an immediate benefit, in the form of a $50 refund in course materials fees if their course doesn’t use third party materials as highlighted in this release from AU.
Lastly, you may have read that AUSU is moving toward a fee increase. Having not increased our fees in nearly a decade and after several years of deficit budgets, continuing to provide the level of service that we have in recent years will require an increase in revenue. Anything that increases costs for students is not something that we take lightly, and we care about what you have to say about it. Please check out our forums and have your say. Better yet, call in to our consultation, come chat with us in person in Edmonton or dial in to a council meeting! All of the info about when and where to get in touch with us can be found at ausu.org.
On a personal note, my degreeworks page is almost full of green checkmarks and I will be submitting my application to graduate soon! I am nearing the end of my final term as AUSU president, and I sincerely hope that some of what I have done on your behalf has made a difference in your time at AU.
Brown, M. (2017, 10 19). The cost of a Canadian university education in six charts. Retrieved from Macleans.ca: http://www.macleans.ca/education/the-cost-of-a-canadian-university-education-in-six-charts/
Graney, J. (2017, November 30). Alberta tuition freeze continues next year, government commits $17 million in backfill. Retrieved from edmontonjournal.com: http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/alberta-tuition-freeze-continues-next-year-government-commits-17-million-in-backfill