Students at Nova Scotia's largest university are bracing for another tuition hike after a budget committee at Dalhousie recommended an across-the-board three per cent increase, with even bigger bumps in some programs.

"Increased tuition revenue is one of the important means by which the university is able to balance its budget given limited government grant increases," the committee said in a draft budget released Thursday.

Agriculture, engineering and pharmacy students are facing the biggest increases.

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.

'Not reasonable'

"We understand expenses are going up, but we need to be careful and strategic about this," said Robyn McCallum, president of the Dalhousie Agricultural Students' Association. "A 20 per cent hike is not reasonable."

McCallum — a graduate student studying bees — said other students at Dalhousie's agriculture campus in Truro were absorbing news of the proposed increases.

The recommendation was released on the eve of a Dalhousie university holiday. No one from Dalhousie responded to CBC News inquiries.

"I have younger siblings here and I don't know how they will be able to afford it," McCallum said. "If this was my first year studying I think I would be seriously considering other options." 

Agriculture students, who currently pay $5,083 in tuition, are looking at a $565 increase in the fall. Engineering students could be paying $700 more than the $7,442 they were charged this year, while the current pharmacy tuition of $8,370 could spike by $750.

"It's going to be a lot more costly for me to come here. I'm lucky that I have scholarships," said Alana Bent, a third-year plant sciences student, who comes from a dairy farming family in Middleton.

'We feel we've been giving our fair share'

The Dalhousie budget committee report says tuition for the three programs is below the national average so there is room for an increase, which is needed to balance the university's books.

All three programs have seen enrolment increase in the last five years.

Premier Stephen McNeil says government is giving Dalhousie and Nova Scotia's other degree-granting institutions enough money.

"We feel we've been giving our fair share," he said Friday.

The province is forecast to give Dalhousie University $215 million this year, about 52 per cent of the university's revenue.

"I don't know of anyone who would suggest that the government of Nova Scotia isn't paying enough towards universities," McNeil said.

"We're carrying the bulk of it."