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NSCAD delays decision for 37 per cent tuition fee hike


More than 20 students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) stormed a Thursday night Board of Governors meeting to protest a proposed 37 per cent tuition fee increase. The Board tabled the tuition fee hike proposal.

“I’m extremely proud of our members,” said Gabriel Soligo, President of the Student Union of NSCAD (SUNSCAD). “We can’t be made to pay more. A lot of students are on the line already — they’d drop out if they had to pay more.”

A regular course load at NSCAD consists of 15 credits, or five courses, per semester. The school currently offers a flat fee for students taking more than 12 credits (four courses) or more, meaning their tuition remains the same if they take between four and six courses per semester.

The NSCAD Board proposed that the school remove the flat fee and charge per individual course. Students taking five courses — which is most students — would see a $290 tuition increase per semester.

The fee increase would begin in the fall of 2016 and finish in 2019. The fee increase along with the three percent annual tuition increases universities across the province employ due to an understanding with the government, tuition would increase by $1,740 in those three years.

A yearly fee, including tuition and auxiliary fees, for NSCAD students enrolled in five courses per semester is $6,154. By 2019, it will be $7,894.

Canada has four independent art schools, one of which is NSCAD. NSCAD and Ontario College of Art and Design University students pay approximately the same tuition fees, but both universities’ tuitions are double those of Alberta College of Art and Design and Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

“We’re really calling on both the federal and provincial government to step up their games and value post-secondary institutions, especially arts schools,” said Soligo. “They’re a crucial component to the cultural sector of all parts of this country, so we really want them to survive. It just takes dedication from those governing bodies.”

NSCAD saw a 15 per cent decline in enrollment in its undergraduate programs this year. Soligo said that the Board said the school can’t sustain itself with a low number of students, so increasing tuition can keep the school from closing.

The Gazette called and emailed the Board, but no one has returned our interview requests. If they do, we will provide an update.

“That institutional debt cannot be put on the students,” said Soligo. “Increases and fee hikes are no way to increase enrollment … if anything, it will decrease.”

Across the province, universities watch their enrollment numbers drop. The University of King’s College sees a continuous decline in their flagship program, the Foundation Year Programme (FYP), where students read Western philosophy for a year. With debts and a low enrollment, the King’s Board of Governors decided they could add $1,000 to the FYP tuition in 2017.

Despite student protest, the King’s Board voted for the tuition hike. Next October, the budgeting process for 2017 will begin.

“We’re talking about whether King’s wants to be the sixth most expensive school in the country or the first most expensive in the country,” said King’s Student Union President Alex Bryant.

Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Kelly Regan gave all the universities the opportunity to implement a one-time market reset to their tuitions. Regan argued that similar programs at different universities should cost the same amount of money.

Schools across the province have been sending in proposals for tuition hikes. Bryant said he wants to know the metrics or parameters for what consists of an approved tuition fee increase proposal, but Regan and her ministry haven’t answered his emails or phone calls.

Dalhousie proposed a tuition fee hike for agriculture, pharmacy and engineering.

Dal’s Vice President (Finance and Administration), Ian Nason, refused to show Dalhousie Student Union Vice President  (Academic and External) John Hutton the requests for resets that Dalhousie sent to Regan. Hutton submitted a request to see Dal’s reset requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but his request was rejected because it dealt with financial information.

Student unions across the province express solidarity with one another as most schools sees tuition fee hikes on the horizon.

“The provincial government is recoiling from years of austerity measures, and they’re putting those austerity measures onto institutions, and those institutions are in turn putting them onto students,” said Soligo. “It’s a broken system, and that’s the one we’re fighting.”

Sabina Wex
Sabina Wex
Sabina is the Gazette's Managing Editor. Email Sabina at

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