New Brunswick

Defending tuition hike, UNB says experience next year 'won't be inferior at all'

The University of New Brunswick will not back down on its two per cent tuition increase, despite opposition by thousands of students who say they should not be charged more for a year of mostly online courses.

After pushback from students, UNB vice-president suggests 'top-notch' online program isn't cheap

George MacLean, University of New Brunswick's vice-president academic, said the university's costs increase by about four per cent each year. (CBC)

The University of New Brunswick will not back down on its two per cent tuition increase, despite opposition by thousands  of students who say they should not be charged more for a year of mostly online courses.

An online petition launched by the university's student union has more than 6,000 signatures and says the tuition increase should be reconsidered and possibly lowered.

The move to online teaching has been made necessary because of the pandemic. UNB Student Union president Sean Mackenzie says students understand the reason for the move away from in-person classes, but the year won't be the same.

"We believe that with the reduced quality of education we should be reassessing tuition and actually lowering it beyond what last year's tuition would be because of this," Mackenzie told Information Morning Fredericton.   

But George MacLean, UNB vice-president, academic, said that the programming and instructors will be the same. 

"In terms of experience, no it's not going to be an inferior product at all."

He said the university's costs increase by about four per cent each year, and it is not trying to cover the entire increase with what it charges students. 

He also said the cost of teaching online is significant. 

More than 6,000 students have signed a petition asking UNB to reconsider the tuition increase for this fall, when the university experience won't be the same because of COVID-19.

"It's not as though this is a cheap way the university can save a few dollars. It actually costs us the same amount, and the resources that we're putting into ensuring that our programming will be top-notch in the fall have been a bit of a financial encumbrance as well."

The student petition also calls for the removal of some mandatory student fees that may not benefit all students this fall. A technology fee and a facilities access fee are among those listed in the petition.

MacLean said the university is looking at student fees to see if any of them can be removed for the fall semester, but likely most fees will still apply. 

"We want to ensure that we're providing the best delivery we can so we can get through all of this together." 

Information Morning Fredericton

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