Jan2018, News
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“This Degree Ain’t Free”

The cost of tuition for the upcoming academic year at Quest is $34,000 Canadian. According to a Vancouver Sun article from 2007, Quest’s inaugural class paid $24,000 per year. This is a $10,000 increase since Quest was founded in 2007, excluding the increased cost of room and board. Tuition at Quest is still significantly less than most high-end universities in the U.S., but it is the most expensive places to get an undergraduate degree in Canada.

Why is the cost so high? Quest is Canada’s first non-profit, secular, independent (private) degree granting university in B.C., and as such, it lacks the financial support of the Canadian government, or an affiliated religious group, that Canadian universities generally rely upon. Quest’s costs are high because the school leases all its residences (Quest only owns the land beneath Red Tusk and Ossa, and rents the buildings from the developer),  maintains its facilities (as well as the facilities it rents), and of course pays its faculty and staff. Currently, tuition needs to covers the majority of these costs.

Quest offers a different education from a typical undergrad. This is possible in part because the university does not have to fulfill criteria for receiving funding from either the government or a religious group. The flexibility that faculty, staff and students have to shape what a Quest education looks like comes from the fact that we rely primarily on students and not external benefactors for support. As a consequence of this, the financial burden on student tuition is heavy.

To learn more about this dilemma I spoke to Darren Newton, Dean, who brought forth two ideas for bringing revenue into Quest without sacrificing its independence: fundraising and the monetization of Quest resources. Here is what Newton had to say about the two avenues.

What would the monetization of Quests resources look like?

“We would say ‘Come up here for a weekend in July. Richard Hoshino will teach you math as applied to the business world, JF will take you on an adventure pursuit for a team building exercise,’ then we advertise that to managers of big companies. Our cost would be less if we had 25 people paying 2500 dollars for a 3-day executive training. We have been focused on our core functions, to the point that we haven’t had someone dedicated to just thinking those kind of ideas, like monetizing the facility and the staff that we have here to actually generate a surplus of revenue. We have been light on that in the last decade.”

How might fundraising ease the financial burden put on students?

“If we had externally funded scholarships we would be able to give those to anybody, particularly people who are not from an economic class that could to afford to come here on their own. So if we had benefactors that were giving us money for student scholarships, not for supporting the university, but said here is $200,000 for you to invest so every year you can give some of that money to a student from an economically disenfranchised part of the world, then we don’t compromise our tuition but we do get that diversity of voice not only in terms of where they come from but from what kind of economic class they come from.”

In short, there are currently major financial barriers to potential students for whom the cost of Quest’s tuition is still out of reach. Given that the average cost of undergrad tuition in Canada is $6,571 per year, many people may not be prepared to pay Quest’s continually increasing tuition costs.

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