When the Conservative government released their budget last month, they capped a tuition increase at $200 because they decided that was all students could afford to pay. They didn’t continue the Liberals’ tuition freeze, but it could have been worse. However, the previous government had capped “tuition and ancillary fees”, not just tuition. The Torries left the “and ancillary fees” out. Based on how much the Torries appear to care about post-secondary education, this omission seems to me like more of an oversight and less purposeful policy. At any rate, not capping ancillary fees makes the tuition increase cap effectively meaningless. UNB is planning on instituting a $150 Currie Center Fee at the Board of Governors meeting on Thursday. This almost doubles their $200 tuition increase to $350.
An ancillary fee is supposed to provide extra services not currently offered and services not paid for by tuition. The new fee isn’t going to be used to offer any new services to students; it’s going to be used to cover the operating costs of the university, which is what tuition is used for. The Student Tech Fee is an excellent example of a worthy ancillary fee done right: it’s collected from students, and then students have a huge say in how and where that fee is used.
The Student Union asked UNB to hold a referendum on this fee, to give students a voice, and they said no. UNB is not willing to talk to students about this because in reality, this fee isn’t for students. It’s a cash-grab.
The problem is, I have a hard time coming up with an alternative plan for the university. UNB is hurting financially; it has been hurting for years and we have a current structural deficit of millions of dollars a year. it can choose to either decrease costs by cutting a faculty, or it can increase revenue.
University revenue comes from two main sources: tuition and an operating grant from the provincial government. University expenses are overwhelmingly salary. They can either get more money or fire people, losing our status as a comprehensive university.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but this all comes back to the Conservative government. If they had given universities the money they need to operate, they wouldn’t need to raise what is the second-highest tuition in Canada.