October 23, 2017
Leslie Claire Amminson
Students of Memorial University have witnessed a rise in their tuition fees this semester. The fees, though they appear to be in line with the current tuition freeze, apply hikes to graduate and to undergraduate students. They appear under the titles of Student Services Fee, which tacks on an extra fifty dollars per semester per student, and the Campus Renewal Fee, which adds fifty dollars per course to each student’s tuition.
Sophia Descalzi, Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students NL, expressed her concerns with the new fees, stating: “as students, we strive for a high-quality and accessible system of post-secondary education and tuition fees are definitely a big barrier for students to access education”. She discussed how it can be difficult for low-income students to pay for their education, and how low tuition fees help to make the post-secondary education system more equitable.
A major point of concern is the University’s budget and expenditures. Descalzi cited moneys spent on headhunters as an example of how the administration may be over-spending. The university was subject to major scrutiny over this when the fee increases were being discussed towards the end of the winter semester. Many students are concerned with the high salaries of some of the administration, which student groups have widely spoken out against.
Another debated issue is the amount of resources provided to International Students, particularly ESL students. “They are being charged so much money and they’re definitely not given adequate resources,” said Descalzi, “they do have a special customized program for ESL students, but I think the University could do much more in terms of helping them acquire English as a second language”. New international students will see tuition increases starting in 2018, which may deter certain students from coming to MUN to study. Descalzi highlighted the ability of international students to contribute to Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy after their time of study has ended. “International or out of province students come here for the low tuition fees and they stay here as they build roots, as they get work opportunities” she explained.
David Sorenson, Memorial’s Manager of Communications, explained MUN’s reasoning behind the fee increases. Between eighty and eighty-five percent of MUN’s budget comes from government grants, while only about eleven percent comes from student fees. “When you only have really two primary sources of funding, and one is provincial government grant and one is tuition, and one is frozen and the other is reduced, in order to have a balanced budget it’s a challenge. You can only do it one way and that’s cutting” he stated. He went on to explain that, being blindsided by a further 6.5 million dollars in budget cuts that they weren’t expecting, the University was forced to raise fees in order to avoid further cutting programs and services to students. An effort was made to accommodate students that were previously enrolled at Memorial, and so no additional hikes will be applied to them until 2021, while students both Canadian and International enrolling next fall will face a thirty percent increase.
In terms of salaries, Sorenson stated that MUN bases the way it pays administrators on the average spending of other Universities. Mid-level administrators are paid based on the average salaries of these positions at other Atlantic Canadian universities, while upper-level administrators are paid based on the average salaries in their fields at other Canadian universities.
He also highlighted that the majority of budget cuts have been directed towards administrative units in an effort to avoid cutting services to students as much as possible.