As Dalhousie University's board of governors met for a presentation on the first draft of the budget advisory committee report, dozens of students could be heard outside calling for a freeze on tuition.

The report recommends a three-per cent increase for all programs, but even higher hikes for students in the agriculture, pharmacy and engineering programs.

The committee recommends an 18.9 per cent increase for agriculture over three years, with a 15 per cent increase for engineering and pharmacy. That would be on top of the general three per cent tuition increase.

"We're sending a clear message that students are not OK with this at all. Students already graduate with an average of $37,000 in debt and we're talking about $2,000 fee increases here. It's unjust. It's not sustainable. It's not acceptable," said John Hutton, a vice-president of the Dalhousie Student Union.

Hutton says he wants Dalhousie to invest its surplus funds to freeze tuition tuition fees.

"They can afford to do it. When they can afford to freeze tuition fees, but they're raising $2,000 in fee increases, that's just not OK," he said.

Some students were allowed to sit in on the meeting, including Derek Moreau. The third-year engineering student says "you could barely hear the meeting going on" because of the protest outside.

"Speaking as an engineering student, I already don't have time to have a part-ime job, I already don't have time to try and find money from different sources and so increasing tuition just makes things difficult," said Moreau.

Board seeks feedback

Dal Tuition Fees Protest

Students chant "it's a snow day, freeze our fees" outside Dalhousie University's board of governors meeting Tuesday afternoon. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The board still needs to vote on the proposed tuition increases. That's expected to happen by spring.

Carolyn Watters, provost and academic vice president at Dalhousie, says there are plans to consult with students in engineering, pharmacy and agriculture programs. She says their feedback will be helpful in making changes to the proposal if needed.

"It is difficult to raise tuition but our costs are going up and we're somewhat constrained in how we balance that budget," said Watters.

She says half of the proposed increased tuition in pharmacy, agriculture and engineering would go back into the programs "to hire or to build new buildings, renovate labs, get better equipment for them."