Tuition on the Rise

The province’s elimination of tuition cap helps increase StFX tuition by 18%

Your tuition is about to get significantly more expensive over the next three years. As part of an effort to achieve financial stability, StFX will be hiking tuition fees at a rate of 6% every year for three years. “So what StFX did is they took the 3% that they normally do, and they added another 3% on top. So it ends up being a total of 6%. So tuition is increasing by 3% more than expected. [...]A total of 18% over three years,” Students’ Union President Troy Mrazek explains.

According to Mrazek this tuition increase is part of a region-wide issue as universities across Atlantic Canada are struggling due to increasing debt and mounting pressure from cash-strapped provincial governments to become more financially stable and less reliant on government funding. 

“It’s the provincial government instituting it, and it’s essentially saying to the universities, ‘Clean up your act, we are not going to bail you out if you are in bad financial order.’ So if you are really, really in debt and you need finical support above and beyond what the province already gives, they are not going to give it to you. So this is the one time, adjust your fees accordingly so that you are competitive, but also accordingly so that you can stay alive as an institution” Mrazek explains.

The Students’ Union has lobbied both the province and the university extensively with little success. Mrazek says they tried to convince the Nova Scotiangovernment to leave the tuition cap in place by saying, “Please don’t unregulate this; don’t leave it up to the institution. Please support us, please help us, don’t put it on the backs of students.” Mrazek adds, “Well then they put it on the backs of students – [the government] left it to the universities to decide. So then it turned to, ‘University, please, we understand you are in dire financial need or you need this to sustain and be competitive, but don’t put it on the backs of students.’”

There will a chance for students to learn more about these increased costs and ask questions at public forums that will most likely happen shortly after reading week. “They are trying to do consultation sessions with all students around the changes. I’ve been working with Andrew Beckett, the VP Finance and Administration. He wanted to do a couple town hall sessions of information and then question and answer,” Mrazek says.

Mrazek is very interested in where the money raised by the tuition increase is going. He wants to make sure it will end up benefitting students. “We know there is going to be some type of increase, but what we are concerned with is where the increase is going. That extra money [the university] is bringing in, is it just going to go fund the debt that has accumulated over the last few years? Or is it actually going into services that are going to benefit students? Our number one thing is, we need to reinvest in student services. We need more supports. If we are going to grow our international student population, we need more than a part-time international student advisor.”

The Xaverian was able (via email) to get in contact with the department of the Minister for Advanced Education and Labour, Kelly Regan. They offered the provincial government’s view of the situation, writing, “When tuition was frozen years ago, it created inequities that put some universities at a disadvantage. Some schools’ tuition was frozen at a much lower level compared to similar schools and programs. Universities should be able to charge similar amounts for these similar programs.”

 Regan’s office also sought to outline the steps that have been taken to make universities more financially stable. “University sustainability isn’t an issue specific to Nova Scotia – schools across the country are working to rein in costs and balance budgets. In our province, part of that work has been developing a new MOU between the province and the universities. And last year, government passed the University Accountability and Sustainability Act to help ensure Nova Scotia’s institutions are sustainable and here for years to come. The Bill also requires universities to provide financial reports and updated forecasts every year. 

Finally, the email listed the options available to students who are struggling to afford tuition. “Nova Scotia has one of the best student assistance programs in the country - provincial loans are interest-free, there are up-front bursaries and grants students don’t have to repay, and the loan forgiveness program can wipe out a student’s entire provincial loan, worth up to $15,000. We’re also working to ensure youth have the skills, training and experience they need. For example, government’s Graduate to Opportunity Program links new graduates with employers offering great jobs requiring little experience. So far, we’ve connected more than 100 new grads with jobs.”