Colleges take time to consult students before setting tuition

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Since March 2017, when the Government of Saskatchewan announced that it would reduce funding to post-secondary tuitions, the University of Saskatchewan has been exploring its budget to meet basic operating costs while avoiding a hike in tuition.

Each year, tuition prices are determined by individual colleges and sent to the Board of Governors for approval. Typically, the prices are determined in December, but the BOG has extended the renewal deadline to March, so that colleges can have “more meaningful consultation with students.”

Vanessa Johnson, a third-year education student specializing in social studies, attended the consultation session held on Oct. 19 with Michelle Prytula, dean of the College of Education. Johnson explains that the consultation consisted of a presentation that forecasted tuition increases and compared the tuition costs to other universities.

“I found that it was quite transparent for the information they were giving us, because she was giving us numbers from other universities based on their education tuition,” Johnson said. “[Dean Prytula] just kept reiterating that she wanted to create the best College of Education that she possibly can, and she wanted us to know where our money [is] going.”

Tuition prices are set according to three guiding principles. The first principle is that tuition prices should be comparable between the U of S and other U15 medical-doctoral institutions, as well as other universities in the region.

The second principle is to monitor the affordability of tuition, based on the availability of financial aid, estimated cost of being a student, program demand and potential lifetime earning of graduates. The third principle is to maintain the quality of the programs and education for students.

While most colleges have been in consultation with students using these three principles to set tuition rates, the U of S Students’ Union is seeking to made the process mandatory. David D’Eon, president of the USSU, discusses how he and Jessica Quan, vice-president academic affairs, have been working toward a policy since May, in order to specify and standardize the requirements for tuition consultation.

“Tuition consultations — they … have been happening [with] the colleges for some time, so I think they are fairly standard across the university. What we aim to do this year is to create some consistency, in terms of how they’re run and in terms of what information the colleges are providing, … ensuring they are more robust than they were before,” D’Eon said.

D’Eon says that he will present the policy at the BOG meeting on Dec. 7 and 8, where they will determine whether or not to implement it into official U of S policy. This September, the policy was brought before the Deans’ Council, and D’Eon notes that, since then, the U of S has been acting as if the policy is already in place to guide the tuition process.

The draft policy focuses on the accessibility of tuition information for students and the transparency of the colleges to outline the costs and reasons for increases. It also mandates that the colleges remain accountable for seeking out student feedback early in the tuition­-setting process. The policy dictates that colleges must host a followup consultation meeting in term two if the student societies request one.

Tuition revenue makes up approximately 26 per cent of the university’s operating budget, and with the consultation meetings, students have the opportunity to share their input on how their tuition will be used, as D’Eon discusses.

“If a college is bringing in a service that is not necessary, students can say so. That will help with the bottom line to reduce tuition. Or, if there’s a certain service that is really needed, students can bring that up, … and hopefully, have better relations with their college moving forward,” D’Eon said.

Johnson explains that the consultation meeting was beneficial, because the administration answered the questions that students brought forward about issues related to their tuition. One question that students brought to the meeting was why they pay tuition while taking an internship.

“You need 15 credits in order to get your teaching internship done, … and you have to pay for those credits. So, if you’re only going to want to pay for three or six of those credits, you’re not going get all your credits to get your internship,” Johnson said. “We are getting the credits to graduate from the College of Education with that internship, so we do need to get the credits.”

Johnson says that the administration of the College of Education offered to supply the tuition-consultation information and speak with students at any point in the year. Johnson also notes that she is looking forward to the followup consultation meeting in term two.

D’Eon explains that student feedback on setting tuition has the most impact while the colleges are still determining the tuition internally, which is why the policy has focused on getting student unions involved early in the process.

“The reason we’ve been focusing so intensely on the colleges is because that’s where you can make the largest impact,” D’Eon said. “We don’t know the particularities of every college, so empowering these groups has been a much more effective way of going about it.”

Nykole King / News Editor

Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Web Editor