Memorial University's Board of Regents votes Thursday on whether to raise fees for international and graduate students.
As the board convenes for its afternoon meeting, students are set to rally outside with a demand to stop any fee hikes.
The university is proposing a 30 per cent tuition increase for international and graduate students, as well as a hike in residence fees.
Any increases would not take effect until September 2016.
The changes comes on the heels of the Newfoundland and Labrador budget, when the Tory government slashed more than $20 million from the university's operating fund.
Student groups have spent the past two months demanding that tuition fees remain frozen for everyone. The Canadian Federation of Students said that hiking fees will hurt enrolment and damage efforts to increase immigration.
Although many students have voiced their concerns through petitions and town halls, MUN's administration has not changed its position. The provincial government has said that increasing tuition is ultimately MUN's decision.
So as some students wait with bated breath, here's everything you need to know about the tuition situation at Memorial University.
Who will be affected?
- International students
There has been a large focus on how international students will be impacted by the fee hikes, a group that makes up 11 per cent of MUN's student body. Many say that cheap tuition is the only reason they came to MUN, and that raising fees might mean they'll have to leave the province.
International students at MUN pay more than triple the tuition of a Canadian student. While a domestic student pays $2,550 for a year of school, an international student pays $8,800. That doesn't include accommodation, books and supplies, or travel costs.
If fees go up, tuition will be an average of $11,710.
MUN administration have maintained that MUN's international students pay some of the cheapest tuition in the country. Even with the hikes, the university says these students will still pay "radically" lower costs than the rest of Canada. So how does MUN stack up to the rest of the country?
Average international tuition at other universities:
Dalhousie University: $16,000-$17,000
St. Francis Xavier University: $6,985
University of Toronto: $38,000
University of Ottawa: $22,000
University of British Columbia: $26,000-$31,000
2. Graduate students
Grad students make up around 20 per cent of the student body and in recent years, MUN has been actively pushing to increase graduate student enrolment.
Depending on their program, grad students pay an average of $2,506—some of the lowest tuition in Canada.
After a 30 per cent increase, domestic graduate students would pay an average of $3,258. International grad students would pay an average of $3,702.
3. Students living in residence
MUN is also proposing a 30 per cent fee increase for students living in residence, which would raise the costs of residence by around $1,000.
Student leaders and member of the NDP have said that these fee hikes would unfairly target students from rural areas in the province.
MUN students currently pay between $2,774 to $3,644 for a year in residence.
Who is next?
International students may not be the only ones under fire. During a recent CBC debate, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said that he would consider increasing tuition for out-of-province students, while keeping the tuition freeze for students from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The province's auditor general also recently recommended the government review MUN's tuition freeze, pointing out that more than $112 million goes towards subsidizing out-of-province students.
Students from other provinces make up 19 per cent of MUN's student body.
Who makes this decision?
The Board of Regents has the final say on MUN's budget. It's a group comprised of 30 members, including:
- Three ex-officio members (the university chancellor, president, and the pro-vice-chancellor)
- Six members elected by MUN's Alumni Association
- Four members who are full-time students of the university
- 17 members selected by the Lieutenant-Governor in council.
Members of the public are allowed into Board of Regents meetings, but only with prior approval by the board.
Budgetary debate, however, is held in camera.
Tuition history 101
The provincial government established a tuition freeze for post-secondary students in 1999, while also cutting existing tuition fees by 25 per cent.
Successive governments have maintained that freeze in every provincial budget that has followed.
Since then, MUN has been one of the most affordable universities in the country, at more than $2,000 for a year of schooling.
However, this tuition freeze came after student protests. In the 1990s, fees were quickly increasing and the government had replaced the student grant system with student loans.
Students responded by demonstrating with rallies and sit-ins. Brian Tobin, the premier at the time, is quoted as saying "the students made it impossible for me not to freeze tuition fees."
The current government has eliminated student loans and replaced them with need-based grants.