Tuition increases outpace inflation
2020 freeze offers little relief
It’s common knowledge that tuition inflation is high, but I doubt many people know just how high. A couple weeks ago I got curious about the University of Regina’s tuition inflation, so I did a little digging to share with you all.
According to the Statistics Canada June 2010 report, a domestic undergraduate student taking a full year’s course load (10 classes over two semesters) would have paid at most $5,342 in tuition at the University of Regina in 2010. In 2020 a domestic undergraduate student taking a full year’s course load would pay $8,773.20 for that same number of courses in the same period of time. According to the inflation calculator on the Bank of Canada’s website, the $5,342 a student would’ve paid in 2010 is only worth $6,275.02 today, yet today’s students are paying roughly $2,500 more than that. The four-year degree that undergrad from 2010 received would’ve cost them roughly $25,000, and today’s students will pay roughly $35,000 – that’s a $10,000 increase in ten years. $10,000 from every student that acquires a Bachelor’s degree, and in the Fall 2019 semester there were nearly 15,000 undergraduate students at the University of Regina – I’ll let you do the math on how much extra cash that is.
Much less common knowledge is the fact that there’s a public list of University of Regina employees with annual salaries of $100,000 or greater. Premier Scott Moe’s annual salary is $172,848. I wanted to compare the University’s list to Moe’s salary, and found that there are over 40 employees at the University of Regina whose salaries are higher than the premier’s.
These are two contributing factors to the general student body’s dissatisfaction with the University’s decision to freeze tuition rather than lower it for the Fall 2020 semester that will, for the majority of that student body, be online. In June, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor Thomas Chase stated in a video release that “the University of Regina is simply not in a position to waive or reduce tuition.” I’d like to mention Chase’s salary alone is a crisp $350,000 a year, making it a little difficult to accept that there’s not any wiggle room to be found in the budget. Coupling that with the extra $2,500 per full-time domestic undergrad (due to the inflation of tuition) that the University gets per year makes accepting his statement become even harder.
Students at the University have stated many reasons why they see a reduction of tuition costs to be necessary. First, many courses will be asynchronous, meaning there will be no assigned lecture meetings in these courses and very few opportunities to interact with professors or classmates. This is concerning for students as they’ll be unable to build the same types of relationships with their professors, which makes it especially concerning for third-year students with aims for honours who are trying to find a supervisor.
The severe reduction of resources on campus is also a reason for some to see simply freezing tuition as not enough. Archer Library, for example, will only have the main floor available to be used. Their laptops and iPads they had for student use will no longer be offered. Only 40 computers will be available for students to book, in advance, for a maximum of three hours a day. This means that if a student doesn’t have a computer in their home they’ll have to compete with potentially thousands of others to book one of 40 computers, and if their assignments can’t be completed in three hours they’ll be making multiple visits. This also means that if a student doesn’t have internet access in their home they’ll have no way to book a computer at the library. These reductions mean students need to spend more money on quality computers, steady internet connections, and webcams for some courses, all before they’ve gotten their student loans and after a summer in quarantine where most of them couldn’t find work.
One of the largest causes for student malcontent is the reports coming from students who took courses through the Spring/Summer 2020 semester. These courses were a trial run of sorts for the Fall 2020 semester’s online course format, and few students were satisfied paying the same tuition amount for the experiences they had.
Nadine Steinley, a third-year secondary education student, said “Pretty much every week there was a link that didn’t work, or a textbook (the prof) said was available that wasn’t.” Steinley said their courses were mostly made up of readings and forum posts, which made it difficult for them to fully engage with the material or work out concepts they had difficulty with as there were no real opportunities for conversation.
Angela Halliday, a psychology and English student, pointed out that including lectures through a video chat format like Zoom can still have drawbacks. Students are told to mute their microphones while the professor lectures and if they have a question they’re to click a button that alerts the professor. According to Halliday, “profs aren’t always paying attention to the monitors so they may not see when a student has a question or wants to contribute, and that impacts what we’re able to learn.”
Brooke Bohn, a psychology student, found her courses much more taxing than regular Spring/Summer courses. “I was basically teaching myself with resources the professors offered… I did twice as much work as I would’ve done with in-class information.”
Sarah Nakonechny took a statistics course and was deeply disappointed. “It was the worst course I have ever taken and the grade I received reflected that. It was impossible for me to get adequate help, the PowerPoint lectures did nothing to explain a concept and simply being sent answer sheets didn’t help in explaining where I had gone wrong. It was a waste of my time and money… It’s garbage that they’re charging the same when we are not getting the same value for our education. We will be primarily figuring things out on our own.”