Bagtown Economics: A rebuttal to Mt. A’s no rebate decision

The Mount Allison administration justified their no-rebate decision using three broad arguments. Below is a rebuttal to each of them.

REASON 1: While the disruption in classes has been challenging for students and our entire community, the end goals have not changed.

“The University’s responsibility is to provide the high quality education and experience necessary to prepare students for the next step in their lives, whether that is employment or further education. This responsibility will be met.

In addition, tuition fees are not set according to the number of hours in the classroom, but for the course delivered. A refund would only be applicable if a course or a term was cancelled.”

RESPONSE:

They claim that tuition fees are not set according to the number of hours in the classroom. This is nothing short of a lie. Tuition is very deliberately chosen so as to cover the costs of offering the university experience—of which the main component is courses!

The university saved money through forgone salary payments to faculty, precisely because the number of hours was reduced, and thus salaries were not paid. Alternatively, a 100 hour course will most certainly cost more than a fifty hour course, all else equal. Course length affects costs. Costs affect tuition—which the administration loves to point out when defending their budget.

This is basic cost-accounting. While it is hard to fully account for where all tuition money goes, it is undeniable that courses (and everything associated with them) are the primary component of budgetary expenditure.

REASON 2: While the University has determined a tuition rebate is not an appropriate response to the MASU proposal, a number of financial points are worth considering. 

“The Mount Allison Students’ Union has stated the University saved $856,948 in unpaid salaries over the course of the strike.

The final costs of the strike to the University are not yet known. A number of financial issues will be settled during the binding arbitration process that both parties agreed to. These are costs the University has to anticipate and plan for.

The University also incurred extra costs in providing enhanced services to ensure a successful term for students. Services will continue to be enhanced for the remainder of the term in response to student need and demands.”

The University budget exists to serve students. If there is any money remaining in the budget, it will be used to benefit the education and experience of all students.”

RESPONSE:

I don’t care if the final costs of the strike to the University are unknown. The strike was not caused by students. We are paying customers who entered an agreement to receive a service. The customer is not responsible for the costs associated with labour action—the service provider is. Their logic here is parallel to transferring money from students’ budgets to university administration’s budget, by forcing students to shoulder the cost associated with the strike—by denying a rebate.

They also claim that some of the strike savings have gone towards enhanced services to ensure a successful term for students. First, they are dubiously vague about what these are, and often inflate their significance—I will elaborate more on this in the next section. Second, I hazard to guess that these additional services are utilized by only a fraction of the university population.

Third, I highly doubt the cost of such services is even remotely close the amount of unpaid salaries during the strike.

Fourth, they say the University budget exists to serve the students. This is childishly vague and misleading. The university is a non-profit organization. The purposes of the budget is to ensure that its revenues at least match its costs, in the long run.  Let’s be accurate, and not use misleading one-liners to defend a decision.

Reason 3: Offering a tuition rebate to students now would mean decreased services in the future.

“The University wants to ensure the success of our current students. That is why there have been enhancements made in the areas of academicwellness, and financial support.

However, Mount Allison will not make a policy or financial decision that adversely affects the University’s future. Given budget realities, any rebate would eventually have to be financed by diminished student services or increased fees in the future.”

RESPONSE:

What are these enhancements?

In the academic area, they consist solely of extended hours (to my knowledge). All the other academic services, such as those provided through the Meighen center, were already in place before the strike.

In the wellness area, the only additional post-strike service is counselling hours on Saturday.

In the financial area, they have outright lied. The Financial Need bursary has always been available. No other financial support has been provided. More ironically, if they wanted to provide financial support, they would give us our tuition refund.

They conclude by saying that, given budget realities, any rebate would eventually have to be financed by diminished student services or increased fees in the future. This is a variant of the previous argument, where they insist that current students should have to burden the cost of the strike. Nowhere did I, or other students, agree to that. Nor do I consent to subsidizing future cost increases.

Final Comment

The most frustrating aspect is that students are not in a position to effectively oppose the situation. The university knows this. University education is not like shopping for jeans. If I am upset with my jean store, I can shop elsewhere. If I am upset with my university, I have no option available, except to make as much noise as possible – and I am not a very good noise-maker.

Students will be organizing weekly protests for the remainder of the semester. Other student leaders are speaking with news organizations. And finally, pressure is being placed on the Board of Regents, who is yet to confirm the decision. Any student who is similarly frustrated should consider sending a letter to the Board of Regents, and if you are so inclined, attend a protest. I hate protesting, but I think it is one of the few options we have for having our voice heard.

– See more at: http://argosy.ca/article/bagtown-economics-4#sthash.ej06jhP4.dpuf

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