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Province nixes jump in U of M fees

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Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum has rejected a 326.7 per cent hike in continuing fees for graduate students at the University of Manitoba.

He told the U of M Wednesday to withdraw its proposal.

Allum said the university request is contrary to everything the NDP has done in the last 15 years to make university accessible and affordable.

"U of M’s proposal to increase continuing fees by such a large amount so quickly is contrary to our commitment to an accessible and affordable post-secondary system," Allum said in an emailed statement to the Free Press.

"Student reaction demonstrates that more dialogue and discussion with students needs to happen between students and administration."

An aide to the minister said Wednesday Allum has told the U of M not to take its proposal this Friday to the Council on Post-secondary Education, which makes recommendations to Allum.

"It’s clear that the University of Manitoba hasn’t fully consulted with students, and this timeline is not acceptable for this fee increase.

"The minister has asked the university to go back and further consult with students, and he has advised them to withdraw this proposal to COPSE," said Allum’s aide.

The NDP government had rejected similar U of M proposals for huge graduate continuing-fee jumps in 2003 and 2010.

The U of M told its graduate students May 6 it hopes for provincial approval to increase continuing fees to $3,000 from $703.15 a year by September 2016.

Continuing fees are paid by students working on their master’s and PhD theses after finishing all course and program work.

"High-quality graduate education programs are essential to the success of the province of Manitoba," U of M president David Barnard said Wednesday.

"The University of Manitoba is committed to offering these programs, and to do so will continue to work with students, government and donors to achieve solutions for better funding opportunities.

"If we don’t, we are putting graduate programs in this province at risk."

Dean of graduate studies Jay Doering said earlier this week the U of M wants parity with the University of Winnipeg’s continuing fees and wants to close the gap with the other large universities in Canada.

Doering said some students equate low fees with low quality, and said with such low fees, U of M grad students take longer to finish their graduate degrees than any other member of U15, the formal organization of the largest universities.

Doering said the U of M would pour all additional money into financial aid for students, which he said would help the university attract and retain students now choosing universities that offer more aid.

The Graduate Students Association said the proposed fees, which came out of nowhere, would be devastating for many grad students.

"They may not be able to continue post-secondary education," warned Laura Rempel, president of the GSA.

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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