Manitoba

3.75% tuition increase in store for University of Manitoba students

Students at Manitoba's largest university will pay an average 3.75 per cent more in tuition next school year.

University scrambling to find new revenues after $5.9 million funding cut from the province: students' union

The University of Manitoba is asking students to dig deeper in their pockets to enrol in studies during the 2021-22 academic year. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Students at Manitoba's largest university will pay an average 3.75 per cent more in tuition next school year.

The University of Manitoba's board of governors voted Tuesday to approve a $660 million budget for the 2020-21 academic year, which includes a tuition increase to make up for a shortfall in government funding.

The university needed to find new revenues as provincial funding has been cut $5.9 million, or 1.75 per cent, from the previous year, the University of Manitoba Students' Union said in a news release.

"As the province recognizes our value as the next generation of skilled workers … students refuse to take the consecutive cuts to post-secondary education as our new normal," UMSU president Jelynn Dela Cruz said in a statement.

This is the third consecutive year where U of M students endure a 3.75 per cent increase in tuition. Before that, the school hiked tuition by 6.6 per cent for 2018-19, the maximum amount allowed at the time.

Janice Ristock, the university's provost and vice-president academic, says while the loss in government funding is significant, the tuition hike was partially because the school's rates are lower than many others across Western Canada.

"It's both in response to a cut but also in response to the fact that our tuition rates are really out of step with the rest of the country," Ristock said.

"We have to remain competitive, and we have to be able to resource our academic programs and to provide the supports that students deserve and need as they enrol in these programs."

The students' union said it appreciated other aspects of the U of M's new spending plan.

More cash for student assistance, online learning

It noted the university will spend $1 million more on student assistance funding to help those of "highest need."

The U of M will commit $1.2 million to bolster online teaching and learning, including the creation of an "experiential learning centre" and the hiring of more career counsellors. U of M is pledging $250,000 to develop an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, the union said.

"It is always challenging for some students when we raise tuition, but we hope through bursaries and scholarships we'll be able to address the challenges that some of our students face," Ristock said.

"I hope what people see in this budget is that we care deeply about the student experience and want students to have an outstanding experience when they come to the university."

As well, the university is spending nearly $850,000 more on libraries.

It's also spending more than $1 million on teaching and learning enhancement, Ristock says, part of which will be used to "support the exploration of open educational resources through the library," meaning students may be able to access free digital textbooks.

"Overall, the university should be commended for listening to students' recommendations and following up on that with more money for student assistance programs, especially amid a pandemic when finances are stretched more than ever," UMSU vice-president advocacy Kristin Smith said.

Ristock says the 3.75 per cent increase is the average hike, with departments including dentistry, engineering and pharmacy only seeing a one per cent increase, while faculties including arts and education are seeing a five per cent hike.

That increase in tuition will end up ranging from $66 to $575 a year, depending on the program a student is taking, she says.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson

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