On Tuesday, February 27 the University Administration is set to ask the Board Finance and Property Committee (BFPC) to raise rent, implement the mandatory meal plan, and increase international tuition which can total nearly $1,500 per affected student for 2018/19.

Increases to International Student Tuition 

University administrators are proposing a 3.14% increase to the 2018/2019 international student tuition, with forecasted increases in the following years. International student tuition, unlike domestic tuition, is not frozen and subject to change year to year. The University uses an “Academic Price Index” (API) to justify increases to fees, as administrators claim that University inflation is higher then the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

Previously, Students’ Union President, Marina Banister, presented to the Academic Planning Committee (APC) on these cost increases. She explained that the combined increases to rent, international tuition, and the mandatory meal plan, will dramatically impact the finances of students. International students pay on average over three times the tuition rate of domestic students and do not have access to the the same or similar sources of funding, such as Alberta Student Financial Aid. “The University is leaning too hard on International students to fill their budget gaps and many international students feel taken advantage of.” stated Banister. Some students at the University of Alberta, have endured hunger, homelessness, and long work days to cover the costs of their tuition bill. 

Some members of the Academic Planning Committee agreed these increases should not be approved; however, the international tuition increase was passed with a very tight vote of seven in favour to six opposed. This was especially close considering there is a vacant undergraduate student voting seat on the Academic Planning Committee. 

“I think the tight vote indicates that other members of the university community are becoming aware of the issues international students experience,” concluded Banister. “We hope the Board of Governors will seriously consider the impacts this increase has on students before they make the final decision.” 

Rent Proposal 

The University is proposing to increase rent by 4% for all residents. For a student living in Lister this equates to an approximately $130 increase for a shared double room, over $500 increase for a shared room in Peter Lougheed Hall, and over $280 increase for a 2 bedroom in East Campus Village, per year. This clearly demonstrates that students are quickly being priced out of university residences. A first year student who started in 2015/16 will experience an rent increase of 9% by 2018/19. 

Mandatory Anytime Dining Meal Plan 

The University is proposing the implementation of a mandatory Anytime Dining Meal Plan. This is different from the current Declining Balance Meal Plan. 

In Declining Balance, your ONEcard acts like a debit card. A student pays for their meal plan, and then spends the money throughout the semester at the Lister Cafeteria or other approved vendors across campus, such as Tim Hortons, Mr. Sub, and various vendors in SUB. In the Anytime Dining Plan, a student pays a lump sum for unrestricted access to food at the Lister Centre Cafeteria during cafeteria hours. The trade off is a significant decrease in the amount of “MealPlanFlex” funds that they can spend elsewhere on campus. This means Lister residents will be forced to eat nearly exclusively at the Lister Cafeteria.  The University plans to potentially allow anytime dining at CAB cafeteria as well, pending renovations to that facility, but even this still means very significant restrictions for students, many of whom are not close to either Lister or CAB during the academic day. 

The current meal plan has two options. These are essentially two different pre-loaded values on your ONEcard. The first option is $4,782, which includes $900 “MealPlanFlex” that can be spent elsewhere than the Lister Cafeteria. The second option is $4,317 with the same flex dollars. Any funds that were not spent in one year would be carried forward or paid out to the student, which would further decrease their food costs. 

The proposed Anytime Dining Plan is more akin to a buffet where a student would swipe their card to gain access, and then be able to take as little or as much as they would like as long as they ate it there. This means that students must eat only in the cafeteria, and will not be able to take their food to their rooms. Only $300 of “MealPlanFlex” is provided under this proposed model.  

The new plan does not provide good value to students who are light eaters, who will now see their costs increase by 29% as they move from the current lower valued tier at $4,317 to the 7-Day option at $4,999. Unlike the current plan, no funds will be returned to the students at the end of the year.  According to information provided by the University, approximately $500,000 in unused meal plan money was returned to students last year.

Next Steps 

On Tuesday February 27th from 1:30PM - 4:30PM in SAB 2-31, the University of Alberta Board Finance and Property Committee (BFPC) will be voting to recommend the Board of Governors approve these proposed increases. Students’ Union President, Marina Banister, as well as Graduate Students’ Association President, Babak Soltannia, will be presenting to the committee on why these increases should not be recommended. This meeting is open to the public, so members of the University of Alberta community that would like to be present for the presentation and vote may attend. 

Many University documents that include breakdowns of this specific information are not publicly available. If you would like more information on these proposals please contact Jon Mastel from the Students’ Union at drpa@su.ualberta.ca or Erin Plume from University Governance at erin.plume@ualberta.ca