Nfld. & Labrador

MUN tuition freeze and who it benefits should be reviewed: Terry Paddon

The auditor general is recommending the provincial government review its policies surrounding funding at Memorial University, specifically who is benefiting from the tuition freeze for post-secondary institutions.
Auditor General Terry Paddon says the provincial government should look at its policies surrounding the post-secondary tuition freeze, and who it benefits. (CBC)

The auditor general is recommending the provincial government review its policies surrounding funding at Memorial University, specifically who is benefiting from the tuition freeze for post-secondary institutions.

Terry Paddon said the province provides roughly $388-million every year to the university for general operations; about $40-million of that is for the tuition freeze.

According to Paddon, his issue isn't with the tuition freeze itself; rather, he thinks the province should take a closer look at who's benefiting most from the lower costs.
The province's auditor general says the post-secondary tuition freeze may benefit students from out-of-province the most. (CBC)

"You've got a situation now where one third of the students at the university come from outside the province, either in the rest of Canada or outside Canada, and about $388-million, as I said, is being provided to the university, so a third of that essentially is supporting students from elsewhere, rather than Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," he said.

"I guess my suggestion is government look at what their policy objective is related to funding the university and maybe they need to take a look at how they fund various student components."

Looking back at 2005, the university budget was just under $200-million, students from this province numbered close to 15,000 and students from out of province numbered less than 3,000.

If some of the subsidy is going towards out of province students, well, in the grand scheme of things that means that perhaps the Newfoundland students could get more- Auditor General Terry Paddon

Now, the university's budget has nearly doubled, while the number of students from this province has declined — and the number of out-of-province students has shot up.

Paddon said he doesn't doubt the low tuition is what's attracting people from outside the province to attend Memorial. While he doesn't have a problem if that's the objective of provincial policy, but there may be other options, including a two-tiered system where out-of-province students would pay more.

"If some of the subsidy is going towards out of province students, well, in the grand scheme of things that means that perhaps the Newfoundland students could get more, whether it's tuition or some other benefit along the way," he said.

Growing the population

Memorial University President Gary Kachanoski said the university has benefited from the low tuition, thanks to the government freeze, but added there's a silver lining for the province, too.
Gary Kachanoski, president of Memorial University, says both the institution and the province have benefited from the tuition freeze. (CBC)

"Government has a population growth strategy that says we really need to increase the number of people living in the province and working and wanting to stay here, and we would say that it's a good news story for the province that we're able to attract additional students from outside that could come in and serve the economy," said Kachanoski.

Kachanoski said program demand remains strong for the university, while demand is dropping in other places like Atlantic Canada, and part of that is thanks to the low tuition costs.

He added that while there are some plans for expansion in the coming years, it is for programs like engineering, which he said will meet industry demand.

However, Kachanoski said the university will need the same kind of tuition incentives to draw students to these programs to maintain a sustainable enrolment rate.

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