University of Alberta students frustrated by fee hikes

Post-secondary education is about to get more expensive for some students at the University of Alberta. The university’s board of governors approved fee hikes in three areas on Friday.

Despite students' concerns, board of governors approves price increases in three areas

The University of Alberta's board of governors approved fee hikes Friday for student residents and international students. Students protested the hikes on Wednesday, before the decision was made. (University of Alberta Students' Union)

Post-secondary education is about to get more expensive for some students at the University of Alberta.

The university's board of governors approved fee hikes in three areas on Friday. International students will have to pay 3.14 per cent more for tuition, while students who live in residence will pay four per cent more for rent and 15.8 per cent more for their meal plan.

The board voted in favour of the hikes two days after more than 600 students came together to protest the proposals.

Students' Union President Marina Banister said people haven't protested against the university in nearly a decade.

"It was a remarkable sight to see the energy of students that really, truly believed that the board was going to listen to them and that the board had their backs," she said. "And students all across the University of Alberta today are immensely disappointed that the board of governors dismissed their concerns."

CBC News was unable to reach the board for comment.

More than 600 students protested the fee increases on Wednesday. (University of Alberta Students' Union)

Banister said the university has been spending a lot of money on staff salaries and benefits, which likely contributed to the decision to increase fees for residents and international students.

"To maintain the exponential growth of spending that the university is doing, unfortunately that has come on the backs of nickeling and diming some of our best and brightest students," she said.

Some student residents considering moving out

Banister said Friday's decision will hurt students who live in residence, like Brendan Samek.

Samek is a resident advisor at Lister Centre, and said the majority of people who live there strongly oppose the fee increases.

An online survey filled out by 632 respondents revealed that almost 94 per cent of residents oppose the new meal plan, which will cost $4,999 — $682 more than the current plan.

Samek said he doesn't know why students' concerns about the meal plan were ignored.

"It doesn't meet students' needs for community, for food, for quality or for affordability," he said.

The cost of living in residence will increase by four per cent. (Anna McMillan/CBC)

The mandatory prepaid plan limits where students can eat on campus to three places, which Samek said negatively impacts the sense of community between residents.

The new cost of the meal plan combined with rising rent has convinced some students to live elsewhere next year, including Samek.

"It's just frankly unaffordable for students," he said.

And Banister agreed, noting that the students' union might not promote residence as heavily as it has in the past.

"We're getting to a point where we're not sure if we can recommend the residence experience to students any longer," Banister said. "Although we value what the residence does for campus experience, it is becoming so clear that it's not good value for money."

'This really almost brings me to tears'

Banister said international students will also take a hit.

In an online survey, 78 per cent of students said they believe the university didn't properly communicate fee increases, she said.

Mpoe Mogale is one of the international students who opposes the tuition hike. The student from Pretoria, South Africa already pays $15,000 a semester.

"This really almost brings me to tears because I know just how incredibly hard my mom works for me to stay here," Mogale said, highlighting how they work hard to help their mother cover the cost of tuition.

Mogale said they were planning on studying at the U of A for another two years. But now, Mogale feels like they have to rush to graduate in order to save some money.

Students vocalised their concerns about the fee hikes, but those concerns were ignored when the board of governors approved the proposals on Friday. (University of Alberta Students' Union)

Mogale said they weren't surprised by the board of governor's decision.

"Continuously, the university, it runs around this slogan of 'For the public good.' But what they do is never in the public good's interest," Mogale said. "So when this decision came around, while I was looking for that surprise in my heart, what I felt was sadness."

Mogale said they're particularly saddened by the decision because international students contribute a great deal to the campus community through volunteerism.

'It's just so disappointing when the results come out showing that the university does not value us at all.- Mpoe Mogale, international student

"It's just very disappointing how much you give to an institution, and what you get back is just very crushing," Mogale said.

"It's just so disappointing when the results come out showing that the university does not value us at all."

Mogale said the board of directors needs to recruit more people who have had similar experiences as the students at the U of A.

"When we have these faces that have never experienced hardships at all, how do we expect them to come up with decisions — good decisions — that affect people who are in those shoes?" Mogale said.