The NDP strategy of enhancing social support for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador continued Friday with Leader Earle McCurdy announcing his party would roll back recent tuition and residence fee hikes at post-secondary institutions if elected on Nov. 30.

"Our province can't afford to put up more barriers for young people at a time when our demographic profile suggests we're an aging population," McCurdy said during a new conference at Memorial University in St. John's.

Matthew Rittenhouse

Matthew Rittenhouse is an international graduate student at Memorial University who is studying biology. He says he was attracted by MUN's low tuition rates. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"We need to lay out the opportunities so young people can put down roots and raise a family right here at home."

McCurdy criticized the governing Progressive Conservatives for cutting $20 million from Memorial University's operating grant this year, and delivering a further blow by refusing to make a $20-million contribution to assist MUN with its pension obligations.

In response, the university raised tuition fees for graduate and international students by $750 and hiked residence fees by an average of $1,000. The increase is due to come into effect in September.

The NDP will eliminate those increases and reinstate the fee freeze that had positioned MUN as one of the cheapest universities in the country.

McCurdy said lower fees had attracted a significant number of Canadian and international students, and he doesn't want MUN to lose its "competitive edge."

"We should be willing to invest a few dollars in order to do so," he said.

As for how the NDP will pay for this latest promise or how much it will cost taxpayers, McCurdy  said he will detail that when the party rolls out its full election platform in the coming days.

He referenced research by the Canadian Federation of Students that suggest more than 70 per cent of foreign students, and more than 40 per cent of out-of-province students, remain in the province after completing their education.

The announcement was welcomed by the Canadian Federation of Students.

"The commitment to keep the freeze is in the best interest of students and their families, and is in the best interest of Newfoundland and Labrador," said Travis Perry, chair of the federation's local branch.

Travis Perry

Travis Perry is chairperson of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

International graduate student at MUN Matthew Rittenhouse praised the NDP for its promise.

He said the low tuition and cost of living played a large role in his decision to study at MUN.

"I don't know if I would have came here if the tuition fees had been as high as they are being proposed to be raised," he said.