SAMRU REC discuss tuition increases, student fees in online posting
By Noel Harper, News Editor
The Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) has taken to its online blog to address a number of recent developments affecting Mount Royal students, including issues such as tuition and fees, the COVID-19 pandemic and the provincial government’s post-secondary plans.
In February 2020, the university’s board of directors approved consistent tuition increases until the 2022/23 academic year, in response to reduced funding from the province as well as a removal of tuition freezes.
As a result, a seven per cent rise in tuition costs will once again come into effect this year. SAMRU has historically been against these increases, but they are focusing their efforts this time around on those more directly involved in the outcome.
“Learning from the experiences of last year, we are changing our approach and will not be advocating to the MRU Board of Governors to vote against the inevitable tuition increases because we know what the end result will be: increased tuition,” the blog post reads.
“Indeed, our frustration should not be directed to the MRU Board of Governors or to the university — our frustration should be directed to the Alberta Government,” adding that tuition increases and employee reductions are the university’s only options to cover the provincial funding shortfall.
The post also discussed the nature of online and remote courses, particularly the use of webcams and exam proctoring. Both of these factors were restricted, according to SAMRU — no additional pandemic-era proctoring was introduced beyond what was previously instated, and no faculty members requested the option of mandatory webcam use.
Another topic was student fees, particularly the removal of the U-Pass program and its subsequent fee — the only fee removed from student bills during the remote semesters of the 2020/21 year.
The U-Pass — which allows students at post-secondary institutions in Calgary to use Calgary Transit without per-use payment — may have been deferred, but some students still rely on the services it provides.
“We realized upon doing this that a portion of students would still need to use the Calgary Transit System and another solution was necessary,” SAMRU wrote.
Originally, SAMRU’s goal was to include students living at home under the City of Calgary’s Fair Entry program, which includes low-income transit passes based on income, an approach that “didn’t work.” Ultimately, MRU took a page from the University of Calgary and purchased transit tickets in bulk to distribute to students at a 40 per cent discount.
Speaking of fees, one particular point of contention is the recreation and athletics fee, which students have been required to pay during the pandemic despite government-mandated closures of gyms and athletic facilities for considerable periods of time. Advocating for a reduced recreation and athletics fee was considered prior to further discussions with MRU brass.
“After some consideration and deliberation, we understood the necessity of the continued collection of the fee; these facilities need to be maintained to allow for both recreational and academic use for the MRU community into the future,” read the post.
“In other words, it is not just a gym pass.”
The fee, SAMRU says, also goes towards health and athletic-related programs and the university’s sports teams and scholarships.
“We are monitoring the current lockdown (as of January 2021) and its impact on the current use of the recreational facilities. If students are unable to use the facilities for an extended period during this Winter semester, we will continue our conversations with the university regarding possible partial refunds/rebates/compensation.”
The University’s General Faculties Council (GFC), a group in charge of academic decisions, was reduced in 2020 from around 100 members to about 50. This increased the percentage of voting student members, of which there are eight, by proxy, as SAMRU advocated for greater student representation on the council.
“We also advocated for Indigenous members to be part of GFC. Although these members would not be students, we felt that Indigenous representation would ultimately assist in meeting the needs of Indigenous students on campus.”
SAMRU went on to discuss its advocacy through the federal Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, where it is involved in increasing the Canada Student Grant, aiding international students through the pandemic, and supporting and reducing mental health barriers for Indigenous students, among other priorities.