A call for massive hikes to graduate student fees at the University of Manitoba has been stalled after Advanced Learning Minister James Allum frowned at the proposal.
The university’s planned 330 per cent increase to “continuing fees” — annual charges paid by masters and PhD students working on their theses after finishing all course and program work — drew protest from students and condemnation from Allum, who rebuked administrators for their lack of consultation with the university community in the process.
“I’m very pleased they put the brakes on this,” said Sharon Alward, president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association. The plan was a surprise to us all. It really seemed to come out of the blue.”
Graduate students at the school currently pay about $700 annually in continuing fees, but were informed May 6 that the university was seeking approval for an increase to $3,000 by September 2016.
But officials confirmed May 15 they would forego their planned proposal to the next meeting of the Council on Post-Secondary Education, which makes recommendations to Allum, after he made it clear he’d have no part of the hikes.
Administrators have argued they want to close the gap between continuing fees at the U of M and other large universities in Canada, and complain that U of M grad students take longer to finish than at any other member of U15, the formal organization of the largest universities.
“The administration needs to start to seriously examine the cause and effect of why students are taking longer here to graduate,” Alward said. “I’m pretty sure increasing the fees isn’t going to rectify much.”
Bilan Arte, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba, agreed that “a real analysis” of how the university allocates its funding must first be accomplished before fees are increased.
“I’d like to see a serious effort on the part of the institution to cut costs in less crucial areas before fee increase decisions are made,” said Arte, who points particularly to bloated administrative salaries as one of the first areas ripe for analysis.
“There are individuals making very high salaries and not actually contributing much to the university,” she charged. “In the end, we don’t believe issues caused by poorly allocated funding or a lack of funding should be downloaded to students.”