Alberta 2021 Budget Drop and the Tuition Increase: What this means for PSE students

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We knew the tuition increases were coming but it was upsetting nonetheless. As your student representatives, we want to connect with you to talk about what our part has been in the tuition process and how we’re moving forward. On January 28, we released a blog post titled “Advocacy in a Pandemic: Your SAMRU REC Is Still Hard At Work!” where we outlined our progress on advocacy priorities regarding online delivery, increasing the student voice, and of course: our strategy regarding the tuition increases. 

On Monday, February 22, representatives of the public and of MRU alumni, faculty and staff on the Mount Royal University Board of Governors voted to increase tuition. Your SAMRU President and VP Student Affairs are the two student representatives on the Board of Governors, and they were the only two votes against the motion to increase tuition. 

As students ourselves, we know this year has been especially difficult for many MRU students. Financial strain and fewer jobs — combined with isolation from other students and instructors and possibly even friends and family — is negatively affecting students’ mental health. Increasingly subsidizing the university’s budget through students’ tuition year after year only compounds these issues by imposing an even larger and unplanned-for debt burden upon graduation. 

MRU is not the only institution that has increased tuition. The provincial government gave post-secondary institutions the ability to increase tuition by up to 7 percent per year, and other schools are taking advantage of this – not just MRU. Student leaders across Alberta have been opposing this, and none have been successful in completely stopping increases.

The 2021 Budget for the Government of Alberta, tabled last week, has sent a clear signal to students: quality is eroding, but costs are rising — significantly. With a cut of $130 million from Advanced Education, this budget will compromise the success of students and quality of education on campuses. Since 2018, the Government of Alberta has cut funding for Advanced Education by over $300 million, offloading the cost directly onto students who have faced an equivalent $300 million increase to their tuition. Read CAUS’s full statement on the budget here.

What now? 

As student representatives on the MRU Board of Governors, our position hasn’t changed since last year. The first increase was approved last year by the board, and your student representatives at the time advocated that the Board of Governors vote against those tuition increases. Unfortunately, the MRU Board approved the increases. Faced with that new reality, your student representatives advocated for a quarter of the revenue from the increased tuition to be allocated to bursaries for students (approx. $1 million), which was successful; the university has also committed to continue this initiative into the next round of tuition increases.

SAMRU is also a member of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), an advocacy organization that represents undergraduate university students across Alberta. In conjunction with CAUS, we have organized multiple COVID-safe protests pushing back on the drastic cuts to post-secondary education. You can learn about these protests and our work with CAUS here.

After tuition was increased in 2020, we heard from students that when we’re advocating to the government, we also need to ensure that MRU is providing transparency and information regarding spending and on the budget. These must go hand-in-hand. This week we met with President Tim Rahilly and Vice-President of Operations and Finance Annalise Van Ham on the issue of transparency and MRU has committed to resuming the budget presentations for students so students can learn more about how the MRU budget works. They have also committed to continuing conversations regarding general financial transparency as well.

We recognize that MRU students are upset, and your voices need to be heard. With CAUS, we will soon be initiating a University Student Congress, the first of its kind. We want to hear from you, and we want the government to hear directly from you, too. For regular updates on this and other advocacy, follow @SAMRUREC on Twitter and @SAMRUBuzz on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your SAMRU REC at president@samru.ca

Sincerely,

Your SAMRU Representation Executive Council

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