Nfld. & Labrador

MUN deciding on tuition hike behind closed doors, says student union rep

Student union leaders say Memorial University went behind closed doors Thursday night to vote on a proposal that would see tuition rates double. 

'A lot of students are really, really nervous about this,' says student union chair

Student union leaders say students are nervous about the possibility of an increase to tuition. (Paul Daly/CBC)

Student union leaders say Memorial University went behind closed doors Thursday night to vote on a proposal that would see tuition rates double. 

Kat McLaughlin, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, told CBC News she was among the student observers during Thursday's Zoom meeting with the university's board of regents. McLaughlin said observers were removed from the meeting when time came to discuss changes to tuition. 

"I think that [they] were kind of alluding that it would be more transparent," McLaughlin said.

"But what happened was, the meeting started, they went through some housekeeping items and said, 'Thank you for joining us but now we're moving to the closed section of the meeting,' and everyone was asked to leave."

McLaughlin said the university had been "fairly open" about the fact Thursday's meeting would include the final decision on tuition changes for the 2022 academic year.

She said the university has had discussions about the idea since the release of a report reviewing the province's higher education suggesting a lift of the long-standing tuition freeze, and a separate report from the premier's economic recovery team outlining a "new deal" between the province and MUN with a recommendation to cut 30 per cent to operating grants.

McLaughlin has been vocal about what could happen if Memorial University does hike its tuition fees. She said young people are concerned about their future in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Kat McLaughlin, chair for the Canadian Federation of Students, told CBC News there wasn't anything in the open sections of Thursday's meeting that was relevant to students. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Nothing that students were able to observe at Thursday's meeting contained anything that was relevant to students, McLaughlin said.

"The actual discussion about tuition, and the thing that really matters to these young people, that's happening behind closed doors." 

Results unknown

It is unknown what, if any, decisions have been made regarding tuition increases for Memorial University yet.

The university said it's planning a media conference for Friday. 

McLaughlin said an official decision would have to be made during Thursday's meeting in order to be implemented in time for 2022. 

She said student unions have heard "informally" from MUN president Vianne Timmons that tuition could more than double to $6,000 per year for Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian students, and $20,000 for international students.

Timmons told CBC News in May that current students won't pay more if tuition does increase.

"That's over double the cost for domestic students from the current rate and nearly double for international students," McLaughlin said. 

"A lot of students are really, really nervous about this.… Students are looking at not coming back to MUN for second degrees. High school students are not looking at Memorial as a viable option for when they graduate."

McLaughlin said student unions are waiting for the official announcement to know exactly how tuition changes will affect students.

She said MUN will be meeting with student unions on Friday. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Moore

Journalist

Mike Moore is a journalist who works with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

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