Mount Allison University students returned to campus last week with the news of another tuition increase. TOWER PHOTO
SACKVILLE, N.B. – University tuition costs continue to rise in the Maritimes, drawing concern from students across the three provinces in pursuit of a post-secondary education.
“For myself personally, paying tuition is my top priority. So when tuition prices rise, the first thing impacted is my quality of life,” said Melissa O’Rourke, a fourth-year student at Mount Allison University. “A tuition hike could mean the difference between eating a healthy meal or Kraft Dinner."
According to figures released last week by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, tuition fees paid by undergraduate arts and science students in Maritime universities in 2013-2014 increased between 2.1 and 8.8 per cent over last year.
Mount Allison’s rate hike was the lowest amongst the 15 Maritime post-secondary institutions evaluated by the MPHEC this year, at 2.11 per cent, but the university continues to have the highest tuition fees in the province, set at $7,245 for this school year.
O’Rourke, who is this year’s president of the student union at Mount Allison, says the student executive is obviously concerned about the continued increases, particularly after a summer of high youth unemployment.
“We do not believe the rising costs of education should be placed on the backs of students and we are committed to working with government to find solutions to make education more affordable for students,” she said.
O’Rourke believes the most effective way for governments and universities to help students with rising tuition costs is to maintain an open dialogue.
“Open and positive communication between all stakeholders is key."
David Stewart, vice-president of administration at Mount A, said the university reviews tuition fees each year as part of their overall budgeting process and has to sometimes make tough decisions in order to balance the books.
“The funds that are generated from tuition increases go to cover increases in salaries and wages and increases in the costs of goods and services that the university purchases,” said Stewart. “Such increases for universities are usually one to two per cent more each year than increases in the cost of living, and if we did not increase tuition the quality of the services and programs we offer to our students would decline.”
He said many universities and government agencies do what they can to help mitigate the impact of those rate hikes for students in need of financial relief.
“There is external assistance, in the form of tax relief, grants, etc. and internal assistance in the form of financial aid, employment, and so on. Mount Allison has one of the best assistance programs in the region,” said Stewart.