Concerns raised over proposed 45-per-cent tuition increase to University of Alberta law program

Article content

University of Alberta students are raising concerns over a proposed 45-per-cent increase to tuition for the Faculty of Law’s Juris Doctor program.

The proposal would see students entering the faculty in Fall 2022 have their tuition raised by $5,265.72, bringing the total annual tuition to $16,967.33. The hike would replace the planned seven per cent increase in tuition next year.

Amy Durand is a current law student at the university who is concerned the increase will create barriers for potential new students.

“We’ve kind of prided ourselves on being an accessible institution that provides a really high-quality law degree, so this kind of hike is worrisome,” Durand said.

“The student body has paid a lot of attention to what has been going on around the world this year about access to these sorts of institutions and the way they are exclusionary and the barriers that people face trying to get to law school, and then seeing the impact of a legal profession that does not reflect the diversity of the population, and how much that is also contributing to the systemic racism problems that you’re seeing highlighted at the moment.”


Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Durand said April 6 was the first time the student body at large heard about the proposed hike in an email from their dean.

According to documents about the proposed tuition increase published on the faculty website, the higher tuition will help in a number of areas, such as hiring more faculty and reducing class sizes.

The documents also note course offerings could expand, the law library kept in operation and the tuition funds would help fill an increasing need for academic, mental health, diversity and career supports for students.

“Government support for post-secondary education has been diminishing, and without increased tuition, the quality of our program is at risk,” state the documents.

Anita Cardinal Stewart, president of the Indigenous Law Students Association, said the university has taken steps to become a more diverse and welcoming space, but hiking tuition would present as a significant barrier and new students may not even apply.

“For low-income students, that high tuition is going to present a significant barrier, so you have low-income students and minorities who might not make a lot of money and they can’t afford to go to the U of A because of the amount of the tuition, so they’re going to go elsewhere,” she said.

“So we created these spaces for diversity, and then now we’ve increased the price so that these people that need to be here can’t even afford to come here now. That’s a bit counterintuitive.”


Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The proposal acknowledges the potential for creating barriers to entry and as part of a solution, it states 20 per cent of the increase would go towards bursaries. But the students question whether that is the correct path.

“How can you say we need to increase fees in order to provide all these services and make up for a budget shortfall, but we’re also going to give away a bunch of that money?” Durand said.

Spencer Millis noted the scholarships and bursaries don’t come until after students have been applied and accepted.

“If there are people who are looking at the cost and they’re like, ‘holy moly, that’s really expensive, I’m not even going to bother applying there’ then that closes the door before people are even applying,” he said. “The scholarships are a good thing to have but they’re not the solution.”

University spokeswoman Hallie Brodie said consultations are ongoing with the Law Students’ Association and Faculty of Law students.

“The increased funding would ensure that students in the program continue to receive a top-quality legal education competitive with other JD programs across the country,” she said.

As the proposal is considered an exceptional tuition increase, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides would need to approve it.

Ministry spokeswoman Taylor Hides said in a statement extraordinary tuition increases are only allowed if the new tuition revenue makes “tangible improvements” to the quality of the program.

“Exceptional increases to generate heightened revenue for the program or institution are not permitted,” she said.

“Advanced Education is committed to keeping post-secondary education accessible and thoroughly evaluates the potential implications of any tuition increase proposal that is received.”

Brodie said the consultations with students will continue until mid-May.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles