Jan. 22, 2020

Tuition fees to increase for first time in five years

A message from the President
University of Calgary campus
University of Calgary campus

On Jan. 13, 2020, the University of Calgary Board of Governors approved an increase to tuition, effective May 2020. For the majority of students, tuition will increase by five per cent for continuing students, seven per cent for new domestic students, and 10 per cent for new international students. Detailed tuition tables, including changes to non-instructional fees (parking, residence and meal plans) are available here. 

For the past five years, tuition has been frozen. This was a decision by the previous government, who also planned to increase tuition by a consumer price index rate raiser in 2020-2021. As part of Budget 2019, a new tuition regulation was approved that allowed for increases of up to seven per cent over each of the next three years, with no program increasing by more than 10 per cent. International tuition was deregulated. 

As has been widely shared, we had an in-year cut of 6.9 per cent to our Campus Alberta grant, equating to $32.9 million in base funds, and we are anticipating additional cuts of five per cent in each of the next three years. While this will be challenging, our guiding strategic documents — Eyes High, Academic Plan, and Research Plan — contain focused priorities that will continue to drive our human, capital and financial resource allocations. We have also developed our overarching budget philosophy — that cuts will be a shared responsibility and not on the backs of any one group.

The tuition proposal was nuanced and rooted in four guiding principles. We strived to:

  • Reduce impact on continuing students
  • Align tuition rates more closely with U15 peers to ensure competitiveness
  • Ensure we could continue to attract high-quality international students from a variety of countries and economic backgrounds
  • Enhance support available for all qualified students by reinvesting a portion of new revenue in student aid initiatives.

Nineteen different student consultation meetings helped to inform and influence the final proposals. We are proud of our strong history of consulting with students and we have deep respect for our student leaders. These meetings identified five priority issues for students: predictability, affordability, access to education, access to services, particularly mental health, and quality of education. The decisions made reflect these goals. Funding for key priorities, such as mental health and the prevention of sexual violence, have not been impacted and will continue to be prioritized. An estimated $1.5 million (15 per cent of new tuition revenue) will be invested in student aid to expand our student aid program.

The other key consideration was comparative tuition data from U15 schools. UCalgary is below the national median on several programs. For example, engineering tuition is 30-per-cent lower than our peers. The proposals were designed to reach the national median over a three-year period, with two exceptions: 1) engineering will still be below national average (after three years we may consider an application for an exceptional increase but at this point we thought the costs were too significant for students to bear; 2) the PhD program, where careful monitoring will be required — it may be that the proposed increases will not be maintained over the next three years (the doctoral degree is a topic of conversation currently across North America and we will want to ensure that our tuition remains competitive).

I want to thank all those who worked so hard to create a very nuanced proposal to present to the Board, and especially our student leaders for their passionate advocacy. These are challenging times, but it is only by working together that we will advance the University of Calgary in the years to come.

Dr. Ed McCauley
President and Vice-Chancellor