Students fired up as institution proposes ‘market modifiers’ to three programs

MRU Students

Mount Royal University students sat in their seats shaking their heads as they listened to Kathy Shailer, provost and academic vice-president of Mount Royal University, talk about so-called “market modifier” proposals at a university “consultation” on Oct. 2.

Market modifiers are tuition increases based on the perceived market value for that course and on indicators such as applicant numbers. This means students could pay more for some courses than others.

For example, the Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Alberta has the highest tuition rate in Alberta. That degree has now set the highest value to which other universities could potentially charge per course, which Shailer explained in the consultation.

Thursday’s event was aimed at informing MRU students on the potential of market modifiers, while giving an opportunity to voice their opinion on the proposals.

Eric Queenan – president of the Students’ Association of Mount Royal (SAMRU) says the executive team was given short notice of the consultation event, which, he says, they were not happy about.

“We were given a short window,” he says, “[Shailer] did not consult the students’ association on what she was planning to do. She told us about the consultation on Wednesday and it was held on Thursday.”

Shailer, who says she plans to have further discussions with SAMRU, suggested that students take their concerns to the students’ association to discuss possible solutions.But when asked for the students’ association’s response, Queenan merely suggested Shailer was deflecting.

“We are here to advocate for students. Not to help Mount Royal manage their money or create revenue plans.”

Proposals from Mount Royal University to the government are due on Oct. 15 and would not come into effect unless the government approved the proposals.marketmodifiers pic 2-forwebKathy Shailer, provost and vice-president of Mount Royal University faces heat as students express their frustrations.

Photo by Dayla Brown

If approved, modifiers would slowly be added over a four-year period beginning next year, giving MRU administration control over modifying tuition each year.

The proposals would see an increase in tuition for the following degrees: Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Nursing (BN) and Bachelor of Science (BS), according to Shailer.

“We had to choose three degrees, and we knew these three were the safest because they have high student turn-out and a high level of donor interest,” Shailer said.

Tuition increases could match the University of Alberta’s fees, which are in the high $700 range per class.

Business administration would be the hardest hit degree, seeing a possible increase from $494 to up to $778 per course.

It was a heated event.  Many students expressed concerns and asked questions as they tried to understand what the proposed tuition increases would mean for them. Some students seemed to merely want their voice to be heard, putting down Mount Royal’s education system with raised voices, hailing cheers from peers around them.

“My biggest concern surrounding this whole situation is that students will become increasingly aggravated towards the school resulting in misplaced frustration.”

– Dexter Bruneau, third-year ciminal justice

When asked whether students would have a vote before the proposals would be sent in, Shailer replied: “What student would vote ‘yes’ to a tuition increase? It’s not something that would make sense to do.”

Queenan says he felt the event wasn’t a “consultation” at all.

“This was an information session rather than anything else,” he says.  “But I couldn’t even call it that either since there was no information provided on how much tuition would increase or when we can estimate for the proposals to be accepted.”

Students wanted to know why they had to prepare for further financial hardships when the university hiked tuition rates just a couple of years ago.

“Have you considered other forms of financial support? Have you proposed any of these to Mount Royal?” asked one student. “Why do students have to pay even more money when it’s already so hard?”

Shailer explained the primary ways of collecting tuition are from a three-tier-pyramid: the government, private donors and tuition. According to Shailer, the idea for using market modifiers was put forward by the government. 

“We can’t ask them for different ways to be funded,” said Shailer, “or they’ll respond with, ‘What happened to the suggestion we gave you? We suggested market modifiers and you said no’.”

Shailer also explained that the university’s awards and bursaries fund is far below the standard of other competitive universities. She said part of the proposed tuition increase would be put towards the fund.

While most students disagreed with the “market modifiers” proposal, some had different feelings towards the event.

Dexter Bruneau, third-year student in the criminal justice program, said, “I’m appreciative of the fact that they took the time to inform the students of the potential coming changes.”

marketmodifiers pic 3Students sitting and listing as Provost Kathy Shailer outlines the three programs facing tuition hikes: Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Science.

Photo by Dayla BrownSpeaking toward the end of the event, Zach Woodward, BBA student in his final year, said MRU is trying too hard to compete with universities out of its league and should not be emulating their tuition models.

“Mount Royal is a brand new university,” Woodward said. “The other universities have been around significantly longer.”

However, Woodward did agree with Shailer that going to the government for another solution would be unsuccessful, even though Woodward maintained that the government should be increasing funding to post-secondary schools.

“I feel that the decision to raise tuition is acceptable and necessary considering the circumstances, and, though it actually won’t directly affect me, I would have no issue if they raised tuition from every program,” Bruneau said.

“My biggest concern surrounding this whole situation is that students will become increasingly aggravated towards the school resulting in misplaced frustration.”

Bruneau added that the information session showed him the school is keeping the student’s interest in mind. He said he thinks students should be clear on that and not create a divide in the institution.

“I can understand and appreciate the fact that they are concerned about their own financial situations, but taking it out on the Provost may not have been the best course of action,” he said.

There will be a second “consultation” next week, according to Shailer. The date has not been set yet.

Editor’s note: In the interest of transparency, we feel it’s important to note the Calgary Journal is produced by Mount Royal University journalism students. Dayla Brown is a Calgary Journal reporter and MRU student. She is also the news editor of the university’s student-run newspaper, the Reflector.

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