Change is in the air for Memorial University

Photo Credit: Jenna Reid
Photo Credit: Jenna Reid
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On April 7th, 2022, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador released Budget 2022, giving the public insight into where government money will be going during this fiscal year.

The theme of Budget 2022? Change is in the air with a focus on resilience- as Minister Sioban Coady states, “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are born with it.”

However, for Memorial University, Budget 2022 included significant cuts and unexpected changes, which can spark questions regarding the university’s resilience in the coming years.

Funding

The Government of Newfoundland announced Memorial would receive a Core Operating Grant of $305.1M and $53.4M for the Faculty of Medicine in Budget 2022. 

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This is a decrease of $13.6M from Budget 2021- which is a part of the Liberal government’s plan to cut $68.4 million from Memorial’s budget over five years.

President Vianne Timmons describes Budget 2022 as “tough” for the university.

“For the university it is going to be a tough budget. No inflationary costs were in there but we were prepared for it. The government indicated the cuts we would be receiving”.

Memorial University President Vianne Timmons

In addition to the core operating grant, Memorial will receive $60.7M, phased out over five years, for the annual tuition offset funding: confirming the defunding of the tuition freeze.

Tuition Relief Grant Program

Since June 2021, change has been in the air at Memorial as President Vianne Timmons announced the end of the tuition freeze, imposing tuition increases over the next five years.

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Photo Credit: CFS NL (Via CFS NL Website)

While this announcement has not been received well among parts of the student body and MUNSU, the Government of Newfoundland has announced its support for provincial students impacted by Memorial University’s tuition increases by advancing a Tuition Relief Grant Program

This program will provide eligible students with non-repayable grants of up to $3450 per academic year for any Canadian institution if one is a permanent resident of Newfoundland.

Out of province students are encouraged to look into their own province’s tuition relief programs.

However, President Vianne Timmons emphasizes, “our tuition is the lowest in Atlantic Canada.”

International students are not currently eligible for this grant specifically. One must be a permanent resident of Newfoundland. However, consideration for Ukrainian refugees is under review.

When asked about support for international students, President Vianne Timmons claims: “MUNL is below the national average in terms of tuition, so that is what we have done”.

MUNSU Disheartened

Memorial University Students Union Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research Hilary Hennessey claims Newfoundland’s Provincial government is undermining the importance of accessible and affordable education.

Students are preparing to have their educational aspirations pulled out from underneath them.

In response to a lack of support for international students regarding tuition increases, MUNSU claims to be very frustrated.

International students are viewed as cash cows because the tuition was so high for them, and with it increasing for them again, what message does that send? All students are not prioritized, and education is not a priority in the provincial government’s mind.

Hilary Hennessey (MUNSU Director of External Affairs, Communications, and Research)

Change for Newfoundland Nursing Programs

A fundamental change in Budget 2022 is the amalgamation of four regional health authorities. This means Newfoundland will no longer distinguish between Labrador, Grenfell, Central, and Eastern Health- instead, the province will fall under one regional healthcare authority.

This has sparked concern in the community.

However, for Memorial University students, this amalgamation marks an extensive change.

First, Budget 2022 will provide $3M to Memorial University Nursing to increase the number of nursing school seats by 25%. This will help meet healthcare demands in our province.

Nursing schools will fall under one authority following this increase under the amalgamation of healthcare authorities.

The health authority amalgamation will take 12-18 months. It will likely change the dynamic of this province’s nursing schools, despite each one having its “own flare which draws individuals in,” according to the Minister of Education, Tom Osborne.

New Faculty of Health?

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Photo Credit: MUNL Website

The government announced it will also integrate medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and others to provide cross-functional support knowledge in Budget 2022.

Therefore, instead of having a faculty of nursing or pharmacy- it will be something like the faculty of health.

Little information was provided following this announcement, but it did surprise the university- causing many to question whether the government can even do that? What might be amalgamated next?

President Timmons said she was blindsided by the move.

She stated to The Independent:

Memorial University wasn’t consulted on the faculty merger, adding it “is the autonomy of the university to determine its schools and faculties, so that is clearly something that is very important to the senate and the university.”

President Vianne Timmons (via The Independent)

Deferred Maintenance

Last year’s budget allotted 13M towards Memorial’s infrastructure- desperately needed funding.

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Tubes in the MUNnels labelled “ASBESTOS CONTAINING”

This year, there was nothing, despite the university’s crumbling infrastructure evident around St. John’s Campus.

For example, garbage cans collect what students call “Munnel Juice,” ceiling tiles have fallen to the floor, tarps are the “new” ceiling,” and pipes throughout the Munnels contain asbestos.

President Vianne Timmons stated to The Muse that on March 25th, 2022, 100M will go towards deferred maintenance over the following number of years.

“There will be ongoing work to look at our deferred maintenance. But it is a challenge as we are one of the few universities in the country that doesn’t get targeted deferred maintenance monies from the government.”

President Vianne Timmons

As a result, deferred maintenance costs get taken from the core operating budget, so it is a challenge. Although, it is a challenge MUNL is committed to focusing on in the next few years.

What do you think of Budget 2022’s impact on Memorial University? Feel free to comment or email themusechief@gmail.com

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