Education News – Manitoba tuition frozen for one more year

But fees will increase by 10 per cent beginning in 2009

WINNIPEG (CUP) — Manitoba’s tuition fee freeze will continue for the 2008-2009 academic year but, beginning in September 2009, tuition will begin a legislated 10 per cent increase.

?We decided to keep the tuition freeze for a year because we think It’s important that students have a transition year to understand what their tuition is going to be,? said Manitoba’s Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford.

Just how the freeze is lifted will depend on the recommendations of a one-person commission mandated to look at the government’s tuition fee policy, McGifford said.

?I think It’s really important that we have someone That’s not in government’s court, they’re not in the universities? court, they’re not in the students? court?and I don’t mean to suggest that our aims are all very different, in fact we want the same thing but sometimes we go about it different ways.?

The Doer government froze tuition fees in 2000. At the same time, tuition fees were reduced by 10 per cent, back to the 1999 level, through a grant passed on to each student.

Over the next three years, she added, provincial funding for bursaries will double, up from $8 million to $16 million. A new bursary will be also added in 2009 to help rural and northern students relocate to pursue post-secondary education.

?We realize It’s costly to go to university; It’s not just the living costs,? McGifford said.

The operating grant to universities was increased by seven per cent?a two per cent increase over what they had expected. McGifford said that this increase is equivalent to a six per cent increase in tuition.

A 6.7 per cent increase was provided in the 2007-08 academic year.

But not everyone is pleased with the announcement. Garry Sran, president of the students’ union at the University of Manitoba, questioned whether the increase is enough.

?University presidents have shown a propensity for being broke at the end of the year, no matter how much funding they get, while simultaneously finding millions to spend on pet projects like staircases or front lawns,? he said.

?Our bigger concern is why universities are spending money on public relations and hiring administrators while, at the same time, not improving labs, and classrooms and hiring more faculty, TAs, et cetera. University administrators also provide no accounting of where their funding goes: It’s just a mysterious black hole. They refuse to provide information to Board of Governors members or to the public through freedom of information requests.?

Sran said that before questions of adequate funding can be answered, ?we need to have an honest discussion with university administrators about where the money they have is going.?

John Danakas, director of public affairs for the university, said the university welcomes the funding increase, but it falls short of the increase the university requested from the provincial Council on Post-Secondary Education.

?The university is encouraged by the province’s acknowledgment of the need for additional funding for post-secondary education,? he said.

?Today’s announcement is certainly a step in the right direction. The tuition freeze has presented challenges to the university in terms of dealing with funding issues and has made it difficult for the university to remain competitive nationally and to offer students in Manitoba the highest possible quality education.?

Since 1999, students in the faculties of Law, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Engineering have voted to increase their tuition fees despite the provincial freeze, arguing that the extra money was necessary to keep their schools competitive.

An additional $465 in ancillary fees has been added to Manitoba university students? tuition since 1999. In 2007, the university also instituted $30 laboratory fees.

Tuition for international students was deregulated in 2002. A 180 per cent differential fee is charged to international students.

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