University of Winnipeg tuition to jump 6.6 per cent

The average University of Winnipeg student will pay $188 more in tuition next year under the school’s new 2018-19 spending plan.

Board of Regents balanced budget, approved increase in 2018-19 spending plan

Students at the University of Winnipeg will pay 6.1 per cent more in tuition under the new budget, after tuition increases by 6.6 per cent and fee adjustments bring the number back down slightly. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The average University of Winnipeg student will pay $188 more in tuition next year under the school's new 2018-19 spending plan.

The school's board of regents approved the $143-million budget Monday evening, the school said in a release, including a 6.6 per cent increase in tuition. With fee adjustments, students will pay 6.1 per cent more per year.

In its release, the school described the hike as an "impact of ongoing reduced provincial funding."

When the province tabled its budget in March, it enacted a one per cent cut in support to universities and colleges worth roughly $6 million. The grant to U of W dropped by .9 per cent, the school said, on top of a funding freeze the year before.

"UWinnipeg recognizes that increasing tuition costs presents a challenge for some of our students," the release says.

"We are responding by restructuring our student financial support to better reach those who will be hardest hit by the Manitoba government's reduction in post-secondary funding."

The tuition hike also follows a new bill brought in by the provincial government scrapping a previous cap on tuition and allowing Manitoba schools to increase costs by five per cent plus the rate of inflation. This year, that's 6.6 per cent, the university said in its release.

When the bill was introduced last spring Education Minister Ian Wishart said the tuition hike will allow schools to hire better professors and offer better-quality education. The bill still requires universities to maintain average tuition rates lower than those in other western provinces.

Following the provincial budget in March, the province said it's committed to affordable, high-quality education and pointed to a $2.7 million increase to the Manitoba Bursary fund included in the plan.

"We have allowed universities greater flexibility to set tuition rates without compromising affordability for students," the province said at the time.

"Manitoba students pay the lowest tuition in Western Canada and enjoy the third lowest rate of tuition in all of Canada and we will work to ensure it remains that way."

$450K to cover international students' health insurance

The tuition hike will translate to an annual increase of $188 for the average student taking 3.5 courses per semester, the school said in its release. Students taking a full five-course load will pay $265 more per year.

To ease the burden on students, the school will increase needs-based bursaries by at least $200,000.

The school will also take on an estimated $450,000 cost to cover health insurance for international students until April 2019, after the province axed that coverage in March. The school said it got "very little notice" before that move went through.

A spokesperson for the province told CBC News in an email the province gave institutions six months notice before the change and didn't ask any of them to cover the costs.

"Students have the option of purchasing private insurance, as Manitobans do when they travel or study abroad in many locations, though we understand some institutions are examining a group insurance plan," she wrote.

To cut costs, the new budget eliminates eight support staff positions — on top of another eight eliminated in the previous budget — and enforces a second year of a salary freeze for non-unionized staff.

Five faculty staff positions will also be left empty, the school said, and senior staff accepted a fourth year of a wage freeze.

"Manitoba will continue to be one of the most affordable places to go to university in the country, even with the new tuition increases," the school wrote in its release.