UNB students protest tuition hike

Written by Jared Durelle on April 2, 2018

UNB students quickly organized a presence at the university’s Senate meeting on March 27 to show their opposition to planned tuition hikes. Photo by Jared Durelle.

Fredericton – About 100 students attended the University of New Brunswick’s Senate meeting on March 27 to show their opposition to a proposed tuition hike.

Students say this is not about themselves but future students who will be affected by the tuition hikes.

“We’re doing this for future students. The tuition hike won’t come into effect until 2019-2020, which is when we’re graduating. It’s absurd that they’ll be paying almost twice as much as we paid. I feel that the way it’s been handled is unfair,” said Kathleen Adams, a law student.

“I started #KeepTheDoorOpenUNB so people from different socioeconomic backgrounds can gain access to education. We are asking for a delay so this can be discussed and a more acceptable offer be put on the table instead of pushing it through,” stated Adams.

UNB is proposing a differential tuition hike in order to balance its 2020-2021 budget. They are proposing different tuition increases for each program based on demand in each faculty and program.

UNB President Eddy Campbell has said that he will delay the decision until the Board of Governors’ meeting in May. However, students are not happy that this decision could be made while most students are away. They want the decision delayed until October.

Today, general tuition is $6,626/year, excluding fees. With fees included, some of which are mandatory, annual tuition is above $7,536. The proposed hikes are based on the Tuition Review Task Force’s findings on demand for programs. According to UNB documents, the task force was “made up of faculty, staff, and students from both campuses.”

Opposition to differential tuition fees

Law students are among those organizing against the tuition hike.

Jill Pilgrim, law representative on the UNB Student Union, explained the tuition increase: “They’re switching to a differential fee model based on faculty. Current students will be grandfathered in while new [Law] students will have to pay the 50% increase for the same education. This sets up new students to be hit with much more debt than those before them.”

Serena Smith, also a law student, said, “If they’re comparing us to Dalhousie [University] in cost then they should be providing the same benefit to [the Law] faculty. The increase is making an elite program even more elite. I came here to help others and benefit my community after saving and working two to three jobs to stay here. If they were closer in cost, I would pick Dalhousie for the same cost and higher benefits just because there’s transparency with the funding.”

UNB is proposing to increase tuition for law students from $6,626 to $10,000 with a program fee taking total tuition to $13,950, bringing the total cost of a three-year law degree to $41,850.

Students are not happy with UNB belittling their concerns by suggesting that they just “graduate on time” as was suggested by Eddy Campbell at the Senate meeting.

David Coon, Fredericton South MLA and NB’s Green Party Leader, and Jody Carr, MLA for Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton, came out to show their support for the students organizing against the planned tuition hikes at UNB on March 27, 2018. Photo by Jared Durelle.

Before going to the UNB Senate meeting, students made signs in the presence of Fredericton South MLA and Green Party of New Brunswick Leader, David Coon, and Conservative Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton MLA, Jody Carr, who both voiced their support for the students.

“Students are already overburdened with debt. They’re drowning in debt. After the MOU was signed with the province I thought that was the end of the story,” said Coon.

“I’m primarily concerned with the burden that’s been put on students. Our party’s objective is that university tuition be removed,” stated Coon.

“The engagement of the students is impressive because they are fighting for the viability of their program in the future,” said Carr, “When you have a 50% increase in one shot, that’s quite alarming especially after the university signed an agreement to keep stable tuition and now they’ve announced massive increases that don’t follow that agreement.”

The students only found out about the tuition hike framework a week ago from UNB’s VP Academic George MacLean, the chair of the Tuition Review Task Force.

During the Senate meeting, students stood silent in the back as the meeting proceeded. UNB President Campbell barred cameras and microphones from recording the meeting. Students had to wait for a number of items to be addressed by the Senate before MacLean’s presentation on the university’s plan to increase tuition.

MacLean presented data that his task force had found on the on the revenue that could be brought in based on demand for a degree. MacLean pointed out that UNB has the third lowest tuition in the Maritimes and the sixth lowest for targeted markets and that holds no benefit to UNB going forward.

MacLean then presented the demand for each degree. Arts and Forestry were all marked as low-demand programs. Their proposed new tuition rates are $7,096 (7% increase) and $7,434 (12% increase) respectively. High demand faculties like Law, Nursing and Business have proposed increased tuition rates of 50.92% (to $10,000), and 22.4% (to $8,110) for the last two.

MacLean argued that the goal was not to make a degree a commodity but to still profit from it in a competitive market as a way to fix the university’s structural deficit. Regarding cuts on the university’s side Maclean claimed, “We’ve already cut $2 million from administrative costs.”

Chris McGinn, VP Internal of the UNB Student Union, who holds a senate seat then tabled a motion to push the Board of Governors’ decision on the tuition hikes from April to October. After President Campbell, MacLean and few other senators contested the wording of the motion, it was tabled. The motion passed with 25 in favour, 1 abstention and 10 against. MacLean suggested that the secretary make sure that everyone who voted was a Senator and requested a recount, which was not granted.

The tuition hike will be on the agenda of the UNB Board of Governors’ meeting on April 19 at 9:30 am in the Chancellor’s Room of the WU Conference Centre. The next UNB Senate meeting is on May 18.

Students have created a ‘UNB protest memes’ Facebook page where they continue to point out how UNB is spending large amounts on bloated salaries of administration and travel expenses.

McAdams said, “Students will be sending letters to targeted members of the Board of Governors hoping that their voices are heard.”

Jared Durelle is a journalism student at St. Thomas University. 

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