Students in Newfoundland and Labrador won’t be paying more for tuition, but cuts to teaching jobs and programs are looming as the province strives to rein in burgeoning debt.
The Conservative government’s 2013 budget held the line on core funding to Memorial University, and provided $25.8 million to help reduce student debt, including $3.8 million to Memorial to continue the freeze on tuition fees for 2013–2014; $19 million for continuation of upfront needs-based grants and interest-free student loans; and $3 million for continued debt-reduction grants.
It also included $4.9 million for science laboratory upgrades at Memorial, $3.4 million toward renovations to existing student residences, $2 million to increase base funding at the Fisheries and Marine Institute, and $1.1 million for expansion of the faculty of engineering at Memorial “in the priority areas of ocean, Arctic and offshore energy, to support major project development and facilitate private-sector industry partnerships,” according to a government news release.
The government also announced it will move ahead next year with “a review to ensure that programs are being delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Ross Klein, president of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association, said a “funding solutions working group” has already been created by the vice-president’s council at Memorial with a mandate to “look broadly, creatively and practically across the university for funding solutions.”
“The goal is … to find creative ways to achieve operational efficiencies, synergies and savings … (and) to embrace the provincial government’s ongoing interest in identifying interorganizational operational efficiencies among government departments, the College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University,” council chair David Wardlaw said of the working group.
Klein fears program cuts similar to those announced in the budget for the College of the North Atlantic will follow for Memorial.
While tuition remains frozen at the college, its funding was slashed by $15 million, and its Adult Basic Education programs across the province were eliminated, translating into an estimated 140 layoffs.
Canadian Federation of Students provincial representative Michael Walsh said while students were “pleased to see measures increasing access and decreasing their debt,” they are “gearing up” to develop their own recommendations for the upcoming review to ensure Newfoundland “remains a leader in access to post-secondary education.”