A projected $17.5-million budget shortfall next year at Nova Scotia's largest university may mean students will have to pay more for school.  

Dalhousie University says it needs to find money to pay for $9.7 million in salary increases, $4 million to top-up employee pension plans and $1.3 million to operate new buildings.  

Carolyn Watters, vice president academic at Dal, confirmed the school is facing financial problems.  

"This is the third year of provincial government cuts so that has taken about $16.6 million out of our budget," she said. "So at the same time as our costs are increasing — as everybody else's are — so that's a compound problem."  

Possible solutions set forward to meet the funding gap include increasing tuition by three per cent (amounting to about $3.6 million), dipping into $6 million in reserve funds and using $1 million earmarked for capitol projects on campus.  

Many students say they are not keen to see their tuition fees rise.  

"It's already quite the struggle for students you know," said student Paige Black. "Like right now, on the apartment search, rent is crazy."  

"It's definitely a lot," said Callahan Murphy. "I mean I'm lucky to be staying at home right now so saving money like that but I mean when you're talking about away students, the costs really start to build up."  

"Seeing as we're university students we're pretty much broke. We can't really afford to have an increased tuition," said Becca Shaw, a student from Ontario.   

Students will get their say during a budget webcast this week.

The Dalhousie Student Union is waiting to hear more before taking a stand but is already cool to the idea of another tuition hike.  

"Most definitely," said DSU communications and policy manager Lindsay Dowling.

"You know, students are coming out of school with an astronomical amount of debt and they're struggling to get through university — working part-time jobs, paying their tuition and their living expenses — so you know they are paying quite a bit."  

The association that represents Dalhousie's faculty is also waiting to see what the plan is before coming up with a formal position.  

The university plans to put forward that position some time in the next two weeks. There will then be another round of consultations before a formal budget is passed some time this spring.