MacEwan University hiking tuition after provincial budget cuts

Most MacEwan University students will pay on average $457 more in tuition in the next academic year, says acting president John McGrath.

Students will pay on average $457 more in tuition in the next academic year

Tuition at MacEwan University will increase by hundreds of dollars in the coming school year. (Google)

Tuition is going up at MacEwan University, starting in September 2020.

The board of governors approved a motion Thursday to hike tuition by an average of seven per cent across all of the university's 78 programs.

That means students will pay an average of $457 more in tuition during the next academic year. Average tuition at MacEwan is now $4,620 per year for most degree programs.

John McGrath, the acting president at MacEwan University, said the hike is needed to cover a budget shortfall after the provincial government cut a pool of funding, called the Campus Alberta grant, by $9.1 million, or 7.9 per cent, in its October budget. The university expects that Campus Alberta grant to be reduced by another five per cent, as of April 2020.

McGrath told the board the tuition hikes are within the maximum of 10 per cent allowed by the province. The provincial government also chose not to renew a temporary tuition freeze put in place by the previous NDP government.

In the 2018-19 academic year, MacEwan had annual operating expenses of $241 million. That year the university had 2,239 full-time equivalent staff and 12,700 full-time equivalent students, according to the university's annual report.

Student tuition and fees accounted for 35 per cent of annual revenues that year. Government grants accounted for 51 per cent of revenues.

Andrea Turner, the student union vice-president of operations and finance who also holds a seat on the board of governors, said students are upset with the cuts and the resulting tuition increase.

"Our students are very worried," she said. "We budget for every year that we're here, and they're taking on more financial-wise. But that also means that the struggle becomes that much more. And it really rides on the backs of the students and their families."

In an interview with CBC on Friday, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said it's up to the MacEwan board of governors to manage finances in the way it sees fit.

"I know they are making the best operational decision that they can in a time of financial challenge, not just for our post-secondary institutions but for our province as a whole," Nicolaides said.

Even with the hike, Alberta remains in line with what other provinces charge for tuition, he said.

"By our projections, tuition increases will move Alberta up to the Canadian average," Nicolaides said. "Tuition will continue to remain affordable, will continue to remain at an appropriate level. It won't see us moving to the position where we will become one of the top, the more expensive, jurisdiction."

NDP education critic David Eggen attended the board of governors meeting and said he's concerned about an overall operating shortfall that remains at the university, even with the tuition hike.

"The UCP government has put MacEwan, and colleges and universities in general, in an untenable position where they are increasing tuition significantly, making it unaffordable for many kids to be able to go to school quite frankly and adults to go to school, and also compelling them to make cuts to programs, services, staff and so forth," Eggen said.

In an email, a spokesperson for MacEwan confirmed the school is looking at other ways to cut costs. That includes not filling some vacant positions and offering some staff buyouts.

"MacEwan's priority is our students and the learning environment," McGrath said in a statement. "Any future considerations of staff reductions would be made with that priority in mind."

Courtney Vollman, a third-year bachelor of commerce student, works two part-time jobs and a full-time job in the summer. With the money her parents contribute and the ability to live at home, it means she's been able to avoid taking out a loan. Now, she said, she may have to reconsider.

"I have to work harder this summer," Vollman said. "Cue the part-time job on top of my full-time job."


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