Alberta’s post-secondary Students’ Associations have some of the highest fees in the country, with SAIT Students’ Association and the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University being two of the most expensive in the province, according to a recent Calgary Herald analysis.
“[SAMRU] services are on par with that of the U of C and the U of A,” said Julia Broome, SAMRU VP external. She added that the SA tries hard to offer a “comparable and holistic experience” to students.
Many of the fees charged by MRU’s Students’ Association come to the same cost as those at the University of Calgary, such as health insurance and the U-Pass.
The biggest difference shows up in the general fee assessment, with SAMRU being nearly four times more expensive.
SAMRU’s high general fees stem from the challenges inherent with smaller student membership; the cost per student simply has to be higher or the SA doesn’t enjoy the same economies of scale.
According to Broome, the UCSU derives about nine per cent of its operating budget from membership fees and the rest from concerts, conferences, retail and other facility rentals at MacEwan Hall, so it’s not necessarily a fair comparison.
While Wyckham House does bring in rental and lease revenue as well, it’s nowhere near the same. The vast majority of SAMRU’s operating budget stems directly from its membership fees.
Broome said SAMRU fees are capped at inflation and items such as the scholarship fee and the U-Pass were introduced and ratified as a result of student referendums, noting students have full control over which services are offered by the SA.
It’s easy to say students pay too much in fees — most people want to pay as little as possible out of their own pocket — but when the return on investment is considered, the numbers become harder to pin down.
SAMRU offers a lot of programs and services, from free breakfasts in the Peer Support Centre, to support for minority groups in the Pride Centre and Native Students Centre.
Even so, it’s still worth asking if all these services are needed, to help students determine if it’s really worth paying.
Broome said she welcomes the inquiry, stating students should feel free to be critical of SAMRU and its programs to understand what they’re getting for their money. Constant feedback is important for SAMRU because they need guidance from their membership to function as intended.
When asked what services would have to go if there was a demand for a 10 per cent fee rollback, Broome paused and replied, “That’s hard. We think of all our services like our children, which ones would you cut? I don’t know.”
Correction: Julia Broome was misquoted as saying, “We think of all our services like our babies,” rather than “…like our children.” We regret the error.