Nfld. & Labrador

No tuition hike for undergraduate students, says MUN president

Memorial University will not increase tuition this year for undergraduates, despite facing a $12.4 million budget shortfall.
The Federation of Students held a protest at MUN this afternoon. 1:44

Memorial University will not increase tuition this year for undergraduates, despite facing a $12.4 million budget shortfall.

At a meeting of the university's Board of Regents on Thursday, Memorial President Gary Kachanoski said the savings needed due to cuts in the the provincial budget will come from administrative areas instead of raising tuition.

Kachanoski said the university will cut $4.1 million from administration, $1.3 million from its travel budget, and will save a further $3 million through a new attrition plan.

For every 10 people who retire or leave, he said, the university plans to replace only seven to eight positions. 

He added that administrative cuts will be directed away from front-line teaching services. 

MUN President Gary Kachanoski says the university will be looking for efficiencies wherever they can. (CBC)

"This is an indication that we are going to find efficiency savings wherever we can," Kachanoski told reporters.

Students protest outside

Roughly 80 students and community members rallied outside the afternoon meeting, brandishing signs and calling for a continued freeze on tuition.

"It's definitely a victory," said Renata Lang, executive director of student life with Memorial University's student union (MUNSU). 

Lang said the student union had been receiving mixed messages, with some high-level university administration expressing the opinion that tuition should increase.

Renata Lang, MUNSU director of student life, says it's a victory that the university will not propose any new tuition hikes this year. (CBC)

MUN will need $26M in 2019/20

While the cuts, additional efficiencies, and government's $4 million grant in lieu of tuition will cover the $12.4 million MUN needs this year, the university will need to find much more cash in the years ahead.

By the 2019/20 school year, MUN will need to find $26.5 million to balance its budget.

Kachanoski said the Board of Regents is going to have to start developing a serious long-term budget plan as soon as possible. 

Kachanoski said the university also urgently needs to find $25-30 million to replace its animal care centre, which risks losing accreditation.

The university has submitted a proposal to the federal government's university infrastructure fund to help with the costs to replace the facility.

In its 2016 budget, the provincial government did not provide MUN with any money for deferred maintenance projects.

Some tuition hikes to go ahead

While there are no new tuition fee increases approved this year, the university will go ahead with a 30 per cent increase on graduate and medical student fees approved last summer.

It will also move ahead with increasing residence fees.

Students who gathered to pressure university leaders Thursday also called for a reversal of those measures.

"Any fee hikes would mean less affordability, higher debts," said Lang.

"It impedes those from rural communities who have to pack up everything they own, ship things here, pay for transportation, relocation, pay for the cost of living." 

MUN students protested Thursday as the university's Board of Regents met to consider the impact of the provincial budget. (Gary Locke/CBC)

With files from Laura Howells