Calgary

Inflation deflating spirits and pocket books on Alberta university campuses

University of Calgary Students' Union president Nicole Schmidt says students are excited to be attending classes in person, but there is anxiety around substantial cost increases they're facing. 

Advocates say food insecurity on the rise at University of Calgary, University of Alberta

The University of Calgary Students' Union says it's hearing from students more frequently about difficulties making ends meet. (CBC)

The first month back full-time on Alberta university campuses since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been one of mixed feelings for students.

University of Calgary Students' Union president Nicole Schmidt says students are excited to be attending classes in person, but there is anxiety around the substantial cost increases they're facing. 

"With current inflation as well as tuition increases tied in … students in general are paying much more than they did, not only for their tuition but also living expenses such as rent and food costs, compared to pre-pandemic back in 2019," she said. 

University of Calgary students have even taken to anonymously confessing their struggles on UofConfessions, a student-run website with related social media pages. The website has no official affiliation with the school but is run by two students, Zack and Samson. CBC has agreed to use only their first names as the premise of their website is anonymity.

"We get confessions from students wanting to find cheaper alternatives to various things, and a lot of students are in the same boat, I would say, about just not having enough money to do certain things … being broke," said Zack.

U of C Students' union president Nicole Schmidt says at least 150 courses and thousands of students have been affected by these changes. (UCalgary Students' Union)

Students at the U of C are paying on average 25 per cent more for their tuition compared with 2019. Engineering students who started this fall are paying 60 per cent more for their tuition. In addition to that, fees have increased by about 20 per cent.

"Income and other sources of financial assistance for students, such as grants and bursaries, have not increased proportionately," said Schmidt. 

She says food insecurity is also being frequently reported to student representatives.

"We have seen usage and access to the campus food bank rise in the last few years, and we're predicting the same for this year," said Schmidt.

Erin O'Neil, director of the University of Alberta campus food bank, says that in the first few weeks of September, it has given out as many food hampers per week as it has given out per month in years past. 

""We're a little concerned," she said. "We're seeing our numbers increase a lot. We've had 200 new clients come through just in the last couple weeks. But last year we were supporting just under 300 families."

She says the main client demographic is international students, who often pay times five times (or more) the tuition that domestic students pay. 

"We're seeing that more of the clients that are registering this year are families and international grad students who maybe don't have as much access to supports domestically like our students who have networks here, who have families here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

With files from William Hamelin and Edmonton AM

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