NSCAD's board of governors voted to increase tuition on Tuesday, but only for some full-time students.

The Halifax university will increase tuition by about 27 per cent over three years for students taking five classes or more per semester.

"It will not affect full-time students taking three or four classes per semester, or part-time students taking one or two classes per semester," board chairman Jeff Somerville said.

NSCAD will increase tuition by between 7.7 per cent and 9.1 per cent for three straight years, starting in September 2016. Somerville said the increase would apply to 38 per cent of students if it took effect today.

NSCAD will also increase the tuition fee for graduate studies by 30 per cent to $8,270 per year. Until now, NSCAD was in the unusual position of charging the same for undergraduate and graduate courses.

That means undergraduate students taking 15 credits over two semesters — who paid $6,360 this year — will pay:

  • $6,939 in in 2016
  • $7,518 in 2017
  • $8,097 in 2018

Currently, students pay the same "flat-fee tuition" if they take 12 credits, 15 or 18. NSCAD says that means the university lost $400,000 per year.

Students protested the change last week by filling out forms to drop classes. (The student figure of a 37 per cent hike assumes additional annual inflation increases, but none of those have been announced.)

Improved financial footing

Somerville said NSCAD's tuition is the lowest of any university in Nova Scotia. He said the move would shore up the art and design university's financial standing.

"Over the past year we've had to make difficult decisions to ensure the long-term stability of our institution. In June, we reduced our workforce to make our operations more efficient. We are planning to reduce our real-estate holdings and continue to diligently focus on new sources of revenue through fundraising, rental properties and other means," he said.

"NSCAD has successfully reduced its annual operating deficit every year since 2010/2011, and with this adjustment we are solidly on track to achieve a balanced budget in 2016-2017."

The university has faced serious financial struggles in recent years, leading it to lay off staff and consider selling some of its property.

Somerville said providing students with around-the-clock access to the university's buildings and studios contributed to the expense of providing an art and design education.