Alberta Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The first news stories about the “exceptional tuition increases” in 12 University of Alberta programs Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides has quietly approved are bound to focus on the startling percentages – 100 per cent or more in the case of a couple of programs.

But what’s needed beyond that kind of shock coverage is some analysis of the impact of such extreme tuition increases on the services graduates of the affected programs are expected to provide for Albertans down the road.

A chart of the “exceptional tuition increases” approved last month by Dr. Nicolaides (Photo: University of Alberta, via Alberta NDP Caucus).

Needless to say, the UCP approach to essential service shortages in any field is not what you’d call a holistic one. When it comes to advanced education, they want to cut, and cut deeply, without much attention to the consequences, secure in their quaint faith that “the market” will take care of everything.

So the long-term impacts of these tuition increases need study.

In the meantime, we can get back to the shock of the “exceptional” tuition increases that the U of A talked Dr. Nicolaides into signing off on late last month, over and above the government’s supposed 7-per-cent cap of tuition increases.

The only reason we know about them is thanks to a leak of U of A documents to the NDP Opposition, which put out a news release yesterday.

The Kenney Government published nine news releases on the government’s website yesterday, 10 if you count the notice of the latest Orders in Council. None of them had anything to do with tuition, though.

With Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review coming up early next month, his government appears to be focused on looking busy and making sure there’s no bad news.

So instead of the story about U of A tuition, the government announced unneeded legislation to let Albertans ask online for official recognition of “special days,” a call for nominations for “community justice awards,” a new addiction recovery community that turns out to be an old addiction recovery community, privatized, reannouncement of a partnership with Ottawa to bring broadband services to rural areas, some pop-up vaccination clinics in Calgary, and a plan to spend a relatively insignificant $3 million on a youth suicide-prevention program.

NDP Opposition Advanced Education Critic David Eggen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meantime, the NDP revelation that more than $10,000 will be added to fees for some programs will probably get more attention than all nine fluffy government releases. The news would certainly be discouraging if you were a young person hoping to pursue a career in any of the affected professions.

“It’s just unconscionable that they would create such huge barriers to young Albertans trying to build a career in our province,” said NDP Advanced Education Critic David Eggen, who repeated the point the Opposition has been hammering lately that the UCP is doing very little for Albertans facing of rising costs across the board.

“This no-help budget will push post-secondary education out of reach for some Albertans, and push others to pursue their careers outside of Alberta,” he said.

The increases will come into effect at the start of the fall 2022 semester.

In a statement to the CBC, Dr. Nicolaides said “all of the proposals demonstrated how the increases will directly benefit students by improving the quality of programs.” Undoubtedly the U of A made such a case, but such claims always deserve to be treated with appropriate skepticism.

The affected programs are in business, engineering, law, medicine (including dentistry), pharmacy, and education. Increases range from 16 to 104 per cent.

The biggest increases are for two related Master of Counselling Psychology programs offered by the Education Faculty – for which tuition will rise 100 and 104 per cent this fall.

The program with the highest tuition was an advanced placement dentistry program for students qualified to go directly into the second year, which will rise 16.2 per cent to $66,337.

Annual fees for the regular dental program will rise 40 per cent to $32,352.76, and tuition for the U of A pharmacy program will increase 44 per cent to $16,460.80.

Dr. Nicolaides, who holds a PhD in political science from the University of Cyprus, told the CBC he had approved exceptional tuition increases at the University of Calgary, too, although it looks like no one has leaked those yet.

When the UCP cut a massive $126 million out of funding for post-secondary education in Alberta a year ago, more than half of that burden fell on the U of A, which for reasons never articulated publicly but easy to speculate on seems to face particular hostility from the Kenney Government.

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  1. Ultimately the goal of the UCP is to make Alberta a net-importer of talent, not a creator of talent.

    Post-secondary education will languish and atrophy, starved of funding, programs will become smaller and produce fewer students. Of course, this will be a boom for outside province programs as young Albertans leave and head to BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada for education. All these regions have plans for major expansion of their respective education infrastructures. In the end, Alberta will pride itself on its ignorance and welcome failure.

    But I hear that Kenney will be getting his own talk-radio show.

    In an effort to enhance and soothe himself inside his own created reality, Kenney will go full Rush Limbaugh and talk to himself in public, for the amusement of hundreds. In the occasions where I listened to Kenney speak, it struck me that he seemed to be imitating the phrasing and tone of Rush Limbaugh. It seemed to me that Kenney must have spent many, many hours listening to right-wing talk-radio, learning how it communicates and amplifies the anger among the masses.

    Soon, we will get to see the bizarre effect of Kenney spewing whatever is on his mind to his audience. More popcorn.

  2. Life is just going to be less and less affordable under the UCP. Their very pricey shenanigans come with a cost, and it comes down hard on municipalities, essential services, and Albertans. It’s just like how the UCP’s hero, Ralph Klein, was running things. Albertans have a tough time learning from history, and they have repeated it with another Liberal turned Reformer. What does it take for Albertans to smarten up? They are obviously going to learn the hard way.

    1. Anonymous We are going to need a lot more food banks for seniors, yet we only see seniors who are dumb enough to support them. My senior friends point out that Albertans won’t be able to afford any more food banks and young Albertans will be forced to subsidize their parents expenses. I don’t want my children put in that position, while these fools help their rich friends cheat us out of our oil and tax wealth. Lawyers and doctors have been pointing out for years nothing will financially destroy seniors and their families faster than provide for profit health care and my American relatives certainly agree.

      After Klein refused to build anymore long term health care facilities our family were forced to put a female member into a nursing home. The public system had a waiting list of over 1,800 and because she had become very violent with dementia we had no choice , we had to take a private one at a cost of $10,600.per month. Basic cost was $7,000. Plus full time care giver of $3,600. You can imagine how many Albertans this would financially ruin, yet one family told me their costs were $14,000. Per month, another guy told me that it had cost him $368,000. To subsidize his mothers fees and another guy told me he had both parents in a nursing home and he had already spent $464,000. and was still paying it. These seniors who are blindly supporting these reformers had better wake up and start listening to those of us who have lived these Reformer Party nightmares.

      1. Don Braid has a great letter in the Calgary Herald proving Kenney is on his way out yet Albertans have likely forgotten the fact that Brian Jean proved what a great liar he was as leader of the Wildrose Party so Albertans took a chance on electing Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP and we know what a disaster that’s been.

        I keep hearing the MLAs in my head ,from the Lougheed era , saying “Don’t ever trust a Reformer”. Boy have they proved it. Preston Manning and Stephen Harper need their pants kicked for creating it. There is nothing conservative about them. They are nothing like the conservatives we proudly supported under Lougheed and Getty.

  3. The nightmare of market fundamentalism continues. Jason Kenney is making sure. before he leaves, that the destruction of the province is complete. It is impossible to describe the idiots that are trying to run our province. By the time they are done we will have a non reversible fundamental mess.

    1. Carlos: “non reversible fundamental mess” ?? Anything built by ‘man’, or destroyed by ‘man’ can be fixed by ‘man’ (or in this case a determined female NDP Premier).

  4. Have there been similar increases in the tuition for trades? Can I still get my “Red Seal” in welding or as a chef for under $20k per annum? Maybe the increases are focusing on the ideology of what’s being taught. Those crazy socialist dentists learning all that CRT (cavity replacement therapy) at the U of A.

      1. Bird: I’m pretty sure Buttered was being ironic and the question of whether there have been similar increases for the trades is a fair one. As I have said many times before, though, irony is probably wasted on the Internet. As for misspelling focusing, it is an easy mistake to make and I frequently do it myself. I take responsibility for that because when I have time, I generally try to fix spelling errors in comments – unless the commenter has really annoyed me. Unfair, I know, but life’s like that! DJC

        1. Fair enough,

          I read the sarcasm in the other direction. Amazed however, to find you have the time to check other folks spelling. You’re a true saint DJC…

  5. I had expected the highest increases to be on the “liberal arts” – philosophy and such. After all, if you get a philosophy degree, you’ll be taught logic, and you’ll know better than to vote for a Jason Kenney. If you get a history degree, you will know enough history to know what happens when people elect Jason Kenneys. And so on.

    To see some of the highest increases be on students getting into medicine is… I have no words. Society hasn’t needed everything from nurses to ultrasound technicians this badly in generations, so of course Kenney is making sure these needs will go unfilled.

    I guess it makes sense. The most historically successful way to privatize effective, popular socialized institutions is to deliberately underfund and undermine them until they don’t work anymore. Then the public gets pissed off and you tell them, “What do you expect? Government is bad and stupid and wasteful. The private sector is much more efficient and creates better outcomes.” Then you run for office promising to privatize the institution you just undermined. Easy money..

    1. Neil: It’s all about the market. It’s not about improving the program, clearly. You’ll note that the general pattern is that the highest fees seem to be tied directly to the highest earning potential in the workforce. I didn’t mention this last night because med school fees didn’t rise outside the 7-per-cent cap. But it’s worth noting that extremely high med school fees have the effect of ensuring that a higher percentage of the new doctors go into medical specialties with higher earning potential in order to pay off their education debt. Because there are a limited number of med school seats, that means a smaller percentage of graduates go into front-line general practice, which is where we need physicians the most. So these kind of policies tend to make Alberta’s and Canada’s physician shortages worse. DJC

    2. As our blogger points out in his reply, it is all about the market. The fact is that Med students and students in other professional tracks, such as law or engineering, will be able to get student loans from the bank to cover their education expensive, even if the amount of these loans would make the average person blanch. The banks are all too happy to provide loans for this significant debt load because the risk of default is low.

      As a side note, in the early 2000s (before the crash), I was the CTO and top dog at the Canadian subsidiary of a dot com company. We did a lot of software development, sales, and content creation. For the content creation and business side, I would always hire someone with a liberal arts education over someone with a business degree. The reason was simple: someone with a liberal arts degree generally could learn faster, had better analytic and communication skills, and were more open to change. Just my 2 cents. Savvy employers know the value of a candidates who have liberal arts degrees.

  6. This is so predictable. The university announced that it had settled contracts with faculty, and the very next day this was leaked. The UCP is in league with the U. of A., which should not surprise me given the friends and family connection with Dear Leader. Any government cutbacks will be recovered from the pockets of the students. Students are automated teller machines.

    This also tells us that the war on doctors continues, but this time it’s about robbing their pockets before they graduate. Need a psychologist for all the UCP trauma? That won’t get any easier, either.

    U. of A. Alumni Association, maybe you need to screen your events a little more carefully if you hope to get alumni to donate. No thanks, I won’t be attending your evening with (robber baron) Bill Flanagan.

    Would somebody please leak all the other tuition increases pending at Alberta’s public PSIs because it’s hard to pull rabbits out of a hat at the last minute. University of Lethbridge Faculty Association is on strike. Any chance tuition will double the day after the strike is settled? Count on it.

  7. I’m surprised the University of Cyprus offers doctorates, even in political science. Despite describing itself as a research university, the place doesn’t appear to be much more than what in Canada we would call a community college. There are guaranteed spots for offspring of the Greek diaspora. The Wikipedia lists seven notable alumni, one of whom is … Demetrios Nicolaides. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

  8. So much for the so called Alberta Advantage. We don’t hear about that very much any more, but Conservatives in the past sure liked to bring it up. I suppose it only applies to tax cuts for large corporations. Despite recent tough times the UCP was still able to help them out, students not so much.

    I guess students will just have to move to another province where tuition is lower. I know some already have and I am concerned that the best and brightest will continue to leave and with these steep tuition increases, it will get worse.

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