Memorial University’s administration is firing back after the student council issued a news release stating that MUN is proposing to raise tuition fees.

The MUN Students’ Union says the university is considering hiking tuition by 16.3 per cent, but with a rebate for students from Newfoundland and Labrador. MUNSU says the university is also proposing that each student pay a $450 campus renewal fee and a $50 student services fee.

“The Liberal government said Budget 2017 would contain no new taxes. That was a lie,” said Renata Lang, director of external affairs with the MUN Students’ Union. “What’s being proposed is a massive tax on the youth of this province in the form of fee hikes for their education.”

MUNSU says the new fees mean that some students will find their educational expenses jumping by over $3,000 a year.

But Noreen Golfman, MUN’s provost and vice-president (academic), says there is no proposal to raise tuition. Instead, the university is considering a range of options.

“It was with great disappointment that I read the inflammatory news release from MUNSU issued this morning and wanted to take this opportunity to clarify where we are in our budget planning process which has engaged representatives of the students’ unions every step of the way,” Golfman said in a statement.

“I met with the Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) of Senate just this Monday, April 17, to talk about all of the possible options which could be considered to address the shortfalls in our current and future year budgets. Committee members heard me say repeatedly that these were not ‘proposals’, but examples of where we could go—not where we necessarily would go. All of this information will be shared with the university’s academic and student leadership for discussion at a special Senate meeting scheduled for Monday, April 24.”

The provincial budget set aside money to maintain the tuition freeze at MUN and the College of the North Atlantic. Advanced Education Minister Gerry Byrne has hinted that the government could cut that portion of the grant if the university hikes tuition for N.L. students.

“If these fee hikes go through, President Kachanoski will have effectively destroyed the dream of post-secondary education in this province,” said Lang. “Not only will these fee hikes bring youth immigration to a halt, but they will drive more and more of our current residents away. These fee hikes will be a devastating blow not only to accessible education, but also to the province’s fiscal recovery.”

But Golfman says the university is at a crossroads.

“Given the magnitude of the ongoing and projected cuts to our budget, we are now at a critical point in the university’s history,” she said. “How do we both sustain and advance our mission of being a distinguished Canadian university when our current programming and support services to students might not be sustainable, and when it becomes impossible to repair or rebuild a deteriorating campus?

“Let me be clear: at this stage all options are up for discussion. Several options were considered by the Vice-Presidents Council and brought forward for discussion and feedback from the participants of PBC on Monday, a committee which includes student representatives. All of these options are going forward to the special Senate meeting on Monday. Further, the entire university community will have the opportunity to participate in the discussion at a town hall that is currently being scheduled for later next week. All of that input will inform the proposal that senior administration brings forward to the Board of Regents on May 11.

“We value the input of students who are represented on our committees and governing bodies. Decisions like this are taken after as wide a consultation as possible. It is unfortunate that student representatives have chosen to move the conversation into the public realm at this stage of the process before consultation with the broader university community, of which they are a vital part, and its Senate could occur. It is also unfortunate that they chose to personalize this issue by attacking the president of the university as though he were the only person involved in establishing the university budget.

“I look forward to the discussions and feedback from the entire university community through the special Senate meeting and the town hall. We have some tough choices ahead.”