University of King’s College board of governors votes for option on $1,000 tuition hike; student union is not impressed.
Positions clashed between the administration and student union at University of King’s College yesterday when decisions about a $1,000 tuition hike were “pushed off for another day.”
Though there will be no fee increase this year, the King’s Board of Governors voted in favour of reserving the right to increase tuition for the Foundation Year Program by $500 per year for two years, beginning in 2017. Currently, the foundation year, with no elective, costs $7,233.
“Not this year, not next year, and possibly never,” said Adriane Abbott, director of advancement at King’s, of the hike.
“What [the board] has done, and in fact it hopes never to do this, is pushed it off for another day, for another administration and another president,” she said.
However, student union president Alex Bryant called the decision arbitrary.
“When you ask the bursar, when you ask the president … ‘Why $1,000? Why two years from now? Why three years from now? Why FYP?’ There’s just no adequate answer,” he said.
7 months of debate
In April, the university’s board of governors proposed a $1,000 tuition increase to the Foundation Year Program. Allowed under provincial legislation that opened a one-time opportunity to freely adjust tuition, the increase could be implemented at any time over the course of three years.
Alex Bryant wrote an open letter on Sept. 21, outlining the union’s platform that by making FYP “inaccessible to more students we will not only turn away individual students but also work against our aim of increasing enrolment and retention.”
On Sept. 28 at a consultation between students and members of the board, university president George Cooper announced that after experiencing pushback from the student union, the university said it would delay any tuition increase for at least one year.
“We’ve heard you loud and clear,” Cooper promised a group of students and staff, explaining that the hike would only happen if the school could not reach its enrolment goals over the next year.
In response, the student union produced a document on Oct. 7, further outlining its position on what they described as “arbitrary decision-making.”
“If FYP really lies at the heart of who we are and what we do at King’s, the board risks not only further jeopardizing the financial stability of the university, but attacking our academic mission by proxy,” the union document stated.
On Oct. 15 the board voted in favour of accepting the proposal. In response to recommendations from the tuition committee, the board voted in favour of maintaining the opportunity to increase FYP tuition in the year 2017-18 and 2018-19 if necessary.
‘Quintessentially irrational decision-making’: Bryant
The student union has been working with the board and the student body since the university first announced the proposal, Bryant claims.
“What’s particularly alarming about this whole proposal is that the motion came to the board without any report, without any documents, without any background or backup,” he said.
Believing that enrolment will likely continue to decrease, Bryant worries that a $1,000 increase is less an option than an eventual reality.
“If we’re in a tough financial situation in two or three years, which I think we will be, it’s likely going to be due to a declining enrolment,” he said.
The Association of Atlantic Universities revealed yesterday that enrolment to the Foundation Year is down by more than 20 per cent in the last two years.
“In the context of our enrolment declining at an extreme rate, and likely continuing to decline at that rate, the board didn’t say ‘we need a proposal to have the option of decreasing tuition fees’,” explained Bryant: “They said, ‘we want to reserve the right to increase tuition fees in that climate.”
“It’s quintessentially irrational decision making,” Bryant added. “It’s very upsetting that the vote went through, but it’s hard to understand because there’s no rational basis for this proposal.”
Not a ‘cash grab’: university
Abbott refutes any suggestion the board’s vote will impact the wallets of King’s students.
“If we had asked for $1,000 extra and we were phasing it in over three years, maybe you could print it as a ‘cash grab’, but no such decision was made by the board yesterday,” Abbott said, referring to a quote attributed to Bryant by the CBC calling the hike a “blatant cash grab.”
Referring to the student union’s supposition that enrolment will likely continue to decrease over the next few years, Abbott refutes: “I’m afraid I don’t know how to read the tea leaves that accurately and I’m not going to talk about it.”
Student fight just beginning
Bryant wants to talk about it.
“We’re going to need to put policy in place at the board level, to work to put steps in place for the next students that are fighting this so that they’re more prepared,” he said.
“In two years time, when someone has to fight about whether FYP’s tuition fees go up by $500, we need to do the work now to make sure they have the tools to do that.”
Note: this story has been adapted from one posted on signalhfx.ca: http://signalhfx.ca/kings-tuition-hike-is-on-the-table-just-not-for-this-year/