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Tuition may increase after provincial government changes funding process

Dalhousie students’ tuition fees could increase significantly in 2016 with the pending Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government and the university.

MOUs are an informal agreement between the government and universities regarding the amount of funding the government will give the university for the next three years.

John Hutton, Vice President Academic and External of the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU), says members of the Dalhousie Board of Governors (BOG) revealed in a May meeting that the government asked universities across the province which departments’ tuitions they would reset if the MOUs since 2007 didn’t exist.

Hutton says Dan Nicholson, DSU President, asked the administration which departments the university had recommended increasing tuition. The administrators replied they submitted increases for Engineering, Pharmacy and Agriculture.

“They’re playing catch-up and making substantial hikes in a short period,” says Hutton.

Hutton then met with Ian Nason, Dal’s Vice President (Finance and Administration), to see the document detailing Dal’s tuition reset recommendations.

Nason wouldn’t show him, but Hutton has filed a Freedom of Information Access request to see the document. He expects to receive the document on Sept. 18.

Carolyn Watters, Dal’s Vice President (Academic), said at the meeting that administration noticed students at the Truro’s Agricultural Campus pay $1,400 less in tuition fees than Halifax students.

Government funding usually increases by three per cent to keep up with market inflation. MOUs also include agreements on tuition caps – often also capped at three per cent increases.

The provincial government said it would only increase funding by one per cent every year, now – not enough to cover inflation costs. Hutton says universities are increasingly receiving their revenue from students’ tuition fees.

Dal’s Budget Advisory Committee starts meeting in September, and should release a first draft of the school’s budget in late December or early January.

“What we’re trying to do is blow the whistle early because they’ve already signalled their intentions to make tuition resets,” says Hutton.

The Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act, better known as Bill 100, has outlined the universities need to create “outcome agreements,” which would be ways of measuring universities to determine whether or not they will receive extra government funding.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour met with the province’s student union leaders and asked them for recommendations about what these outcomes ought to be.

Hutton says the student leaders didn’t comment because they weren’t sure if these outcomes would lead to increases or decreases in government funding for universities.

The outcomes can range from student satisfaction to commercialized research.

With the budget to be released in December or January and the MOU to be signed, students won’t know until second semester if there will be tuition resets.

Sabina Wex
Sabina Wex
Sabina is the Gazette's Managing Editor. Email Sabina at managing@dalgazette.com.
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