NAIT tuition hike legal, judge rules after review
An Edmonton judge has ruled that a tuition hike at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology was reasonable, but the school failed in its duty to consult with its student union about the increase.
In February 2021, the NAIT Student Association filed for judicial review of changes to the school’s tuition structure for domestic students that went into effect for the 2021-22 school year, arguing that the tuition fee increases that some students had to pay exceeded what was allowed. under provincial law.
“We had a disagreement on, essentially, how the new legislation that was inserted into the existing legislation was interpreted, based on what other institutions were doing,” said Jody Gylander, external vice president of the association, in an interview on Monday.
But in a ruling this month, Court of King’s Bench Judge John Henderson found that a regulatory change made by the province in December 2019 allowed the NAIT Board of Governors to raise tuition fees.
« I am convinced that a good interpretation of the Law and the Regulation requires a conclusion [the additional fee cap] did not bind the board and, therefore, at the program level, tuition increases of more than 10% were permitted in 2021-22,” Henderson wrote.
The tuition changes made by NAIT for the 2021-2022 school year were two-fold.
First, the NAIT Board approved the removal of a cap that was in place that effectively provided a discount to full-time students not available to part-time students.
In an example provided to the court, counsel explained that the total cost of one year of full-time coursework – 30 credits – was $4,830. But full-time students only paid $4,030 because of the cap.
The board argued that this was an unfair advantage for full-time students.
The school wanted the change to be « revenue neutral » by lowering the cost per credit of some of its programs.
However, the board also introduced an overall tuition increase of around seven percent.
Between the removal of the cap and the increase in tuition fees, some NAIT programs have seen their fees increase by 10% or more.
To mitigate this, the school capped raises at 10% for existing students, but many new incoming students ended up paying more than 10% more for a program than they would have the previous year. .
Gylander said the association’s hope in pursuing the action was to try to help keep the school affordable.
« Life is getting more expensive every day and if we can provide stable and known tuition fees or stable raises, I think that would be better for everyone, » he said.
The other aspect of the student body’s request was that NAIT had not consulted adequately.
Henderson found in the association had the right to be consulted before the decision was made.
« I find that the failure to consult deprived the student association of the opportunity to be heard in a meaningful way and resulted in a breach of procedural fairness, » the judge said.
He left it to the student association and the school to try to come to an agreement on the issue of procedural fairness.
Gylander and a NAIT spokesperson said they were committed to working together in the future.
In an emailed statement, NAIT spokeswoman Nicole Graham echoed that sentiment.
« We are still reviewing the court’s decision. In the meantime, we are talking with NAITSA and look forward to resolving this issue together. »
On campus on Monday, students had mixed feelings about the cost of attending polytechnic.
« I think it’s quite expensive. It’s hard with books and stuff, » said Lauren Askin, a sophomore in animal health technology.
Classmate Tate Allen said the tuition increases had been hard to bear.
« I don’t remember getting a lot of warnings, and I feel like I don’t really know where that money is going, » Allen said.
But for some of the school’s newest students, the cost of tuition seems reasonable.
« In our program, we can definitely see where the money is going. We have a good amount of equipment and things that are useful for our program, » said Ayman Hashem, a freshman in television and radio. .
A few of Hashem’s classmates whom CBC spoke to felt that NAIT was more affordable than similar programs at other schools.
« I just moved here from British Columbia and the prices are completely different and it’s much better here, » Karis Jorgensen said.