CAUS & CAFA Comparison of Cost per Student


EDMONTON, AB, December 8, 2021: As university students and faculty, we are dismayed by  the fact the Government of Alberta continues to lay the blame of spiraling Advanced Education expenses at the universities’ feet. Yesterday, Minister Nicolaides tweeted out that University of Alberta and University of Calgary were among the most expensive universities in the U15 group. He used data from 2017-18, which is over four years old, and we believe that there will be more cuts coming that will drive us to the bottom of the rankings. As university students and faculty,  we believe that all cuts to Alberta’s post-secondary education institutions need to stop— regardless of whether they are a college, a polytechnic, or a university.

This is despite the fact the universities cost Albertan taxpayers less per student than the community colleges and polytechnics (regardless of the former’s costly research agendas). This fact is the product of previous governments’ decisions that strengthen rural regions’ economies and increase accessibility. As university students and faculty, we support these decisions because we believe in providing accessible higher education to all citizens regardless of where they live.

“As students, we believe that all Albertans should have a pathway into PSE,” said Rachel Timmermans, CAUS Chair & VP External SAMRU. “All of these pathways deserve investment, but we need to talk about the real costs of these choices.”

Alberta’s universities cost on average  $11,365  per  Full Load  Equivalent (FLE): this is $4,923  or 43% less than the cost per FLE for the community colleges and polytechnics. This is despite the fact that universities have larger research budgets, have higher faculty costs, and have  longer degree requirements than the  colleges  and  polytechnics.  One  factor  in  this  higher cost  is the  role  economies  of  scale  play  in  the  smaller  rural  colleges.   But  even  the   large urban polytechnics cost the Albertan taxpayer $324 more per FLE than the universities.

This is a choice to favour colleges and polytechnics  over  our  universities.  In  a  recent  Parkland Institute report, Road Map or Road  Kill?,  they  use  a  slightly  different  metric  to  point out that while Alberta’s universities’ total expenditure per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) are slightly higher than the Canadian average, it is  our  colleges  and  vocational  schools  that  vastly exceed the Canadian average (P. 18).  This study  demonstrates that Alberta spends  more per FTE than our comparator provinces on our colleges and polytechnics, and these costs are 50% higher than the average province spends per FTE on their colleges and polytechnics.

We believe that Albertans would be shocked to learn that the private or religious universities receive more funding per FLE than some of the public institutions. For example, all of  Athabasca University, Bow Valley College and Norquest College all receive less funding per student than the average of the private institutions—the average of these three institutions is 24%,  or   $1,173,   less   per   FLE   than   the   average   of   the   private   or   religious schools. These inequalities of  funding  are  obvious,  and  any  public  policy  discussion  should at least include these facts.

“These discrepancies show that our institutions are not treated equally,” notes Dr. Kevin Kane, CAFA President. “When the Government of Alberta talks  about  universities  costs,  they  should be more transparent with the Alberta public.”

As Albertan university students and faculty,  we  are  not  calling  for  more  cuts  at  our  colleges or at our polytechnics. We support all levels and pathways of higher education for the citizens of Alberta.   As scholars of today and tomorrow, we hope to  inject some of the facts     of  what Albertans spend on our universities and colleges into the discussion.   We believe    that together,  all  Albertans,   can   have   reasonable   policy   discussions   and   plan   for   our collective futures.

The Council of Alberta University Students and Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations represents the undergraduate and faculty from Athabasca University, Mount Royal University, Grant MacEwan University, the University of Alberta, the University of Lethbridge, and the undergraduate students from the University of Calgary.

Contact: Jon Mastel, Executive Director CAUS (780-297-4531) and Brendan Bruce, Executive Director CAFA (780-913-5630)