More than 100 students at Dalhousie University's Agricultural Campus in Truro protested Tuesday afternoon before a budget consultation with the school.

The students carried inflatable cows and banners proclaiming "we are not cash cows," and marched against significant tuition increases Dalhousie plans for the campus.

If it goes ahead, agriculture students would face an 18.9 per cent tuition hike — on top of three per cent increase being charged to all Dalhousie students. The hike is being proposed while the provincial Liberals allow universities a one-time tuition correction.

The agriculture campus students pay below the national average, but the hike would put them slightly above.

At the meeting with the budget committee, students glared at the presentation, many shaking their heads at the proposal.

At times the room was filled with chuckles as students took swipes at Dal's math. Some slides that listed future prices did not factor in the three per cent additional increase, they observed.

Nothing off the table

Carolyn Watters, Dalhousie's provost and vice president academic, made the presentation and said she appreciated the students' professionalism in an unpalatable situation.

She said they gave her a number of ideas to take back to the budget committee as the process continues, and nothing is off the table at this point. The tuition hike proposal will go the the university's board of governors in April.

The campus tuition increases could bring in an additional $800,000 to all three Dal faculties where the adjustment is being recommended, with the agricultural campus's portion amounting to $185,000. If it doesn't go ahead, Watters said agriculture will face the same amount in cuts.

"How do you balance what you really need to do to improve the quality of the education with what it is you need to charge?" she said. "There's a sweet spot there but it's hard to know where it is."

Some students pointed out their tuition would be on par with the Halifax campus, which has far more resources. But Watters said while the campus is smaller than Halifax, it operates a full farm, which she said is extremely expensive.

Some students said they chose the school because of the tuition. They said if they knew this could happen, they might have gone elsewhere.

The school said it will boost efforts to fundraise and increase bursaries. It will also look to boost efforts to recruit out-of-province students, who would pay more in tuition to attend the Truro campus than to attend the University of Guelph, which is considered to have the best comparable program in the country.