January 16, 2018
Leslie Claire Amminson

In a press release from Memorial’s Student Union on December 13th, the organization described being “blindsided […] to learn that the Board of Regents of Memorial University voted to approve an increase of co-operative education work term fees from $323 to $600”.

The increase was approved by the Board of Regents on December 7th and will affect all students, current and new. The increase will be effective as of fall 2018.

In an article posted by the Memorial Gazette, University Provost Noreen Golfman stated, “While co-operative education programs at Memorial receive operating funding, the university’s current fiscal environment has eroded available resources for co-operative education, making it difficult to sustain student service levels in these programs”.

Jennifer Batten, Senior Communications Advisor of the Provost’s Office, additionally explained that

“Memorial’s co-operative education program fee has been at its current rate of $323 for nearly 20 years […] this rate is well below the Canadian university average of $731, and will now be more closely aligned with national standards […]  It’s important to also note that students enrolled in co-operative education programs will not be required to pay the campus renewal fee during the semester they are on a work term.”

But MUNSU argues that it is unfair for students to bear the economic burden, which the student union claims is the result of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the University.

MUNSU Executive Director of Campaigns, Brad Greeley, writes: “In a year where students have already seen $550 in new fees from the creation of a Student Services fee, and a Campus Renewal Fee, it is totally unacceptable and irresponsible that students must yet again bear the brunt of government cuts as the administrative bloat at Memorial University goes unaddressed.”

Additionally, MUNSU claims they were not sufficiently involved in the conversation. In his statement, Greeley added: “This decision was made with no real input from students; no consultation, no town hall, no questionnaire, not even with elected representatives. Memorial University is continuing to ignore the consideration, input, and wellbeing of its largest stakeholder group – students.”

Batten responded that “decisions about fee increases are made by the Board of Regents, and there is student union representation on the Board. Furthermore, the work term fee increase proposal was endorsed by the Finance Committee of the Board, which also has student representation.”

She added that “the incremental revenue from the fee increase will allow units that support co-operative education programs to provide enhancements in several areas of student mentorship and job development, including but not limited to professional development seminars that provide training and skill development for workplace success; individual mentorship for independent job searches and personalized target marketing to help students secure employment, nationally or internationally; and mentorship and support during co-operative education work terms, including formative assessment of skill development and assistance in resolving workplace issues.”

This fee increase adds to the tense conversation surrounding the University’s budget management, which continues to be a contentious issue since tuition hikes were announced this past spring.