Recently the University of Manitoba graduate faculty proposed a 326.7 per cent increase to continuing fees for graduate students over three years, increasing fees to $3,000 in September 2016. The faculty justifies the increases by claiming it will be able to attract more graduate students through the provision of increased funding options and additional resources for their programs.
However, no formal plan has been submitted to date, even though the faculty also attempted to drastically increase this fee in 2010, citing the same rational.
The new proposal has left U of M graduates both stunned and confused as to the real reasons behind the sudden and drastic fee increases.
However, following a recommendation from the provincial government, the Faculty of Graduate Studies has removed their fee-increase proposal from the Council on Post-Secondary Education. According to Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum, the faculty must now engage in meaningful consultations with students if it wants to resubmit its proposal next year.
Allum said the sudden fee increases run contrary to the government's efforts to provide affordable and accessible post-secondary education.
He also commented on reducing continuing fees charged to the University of Winnipeg graduate students, who pay fees ($2,900) four times that of those charged at the U of M. (The fees at the U of W are significantly higher because they were put in place prior to the province legislating controls over increases to tuition and fees.)
Continuing fees are a blatant attempt by university administrations to seek additional revenue at the expense of students. If the university can demonstrate a financial burden associated with providing high-quality graduate programs, they should be requesting additional funding from the province.
In regards to fees paid by graduate students, they pay regular tuition fees for the first and sometimes second year depending on their selected program of study. Most master's students pay one year of regular tuition fees while PhD students pay two. During subsequent years, graduate students pay continuing fees. Continuing fees are paid each semester and commence once course work is complete and independent research and thesis writing begins.
The rate of continuing fees are often lower than regular tuition because it is understood graduate students at the thesis stage of their program use fewer university resources while substantially contributing to the development and execution of research on campus. Graduate students are highly engaged in not only their own research but also often work for faculty on their research, as well as being employed as teaching assistants, course graders or sessional instructors.
Graduate students' contributions are invaluable to the productivity and continued success of post-secondary institutions in the province.
Continuing fees are used in a variety of provinces throughout Canada; they are known as post-residency, non-instructional, additional session, re-registration and discounted fees. The rates charged vary from institution to institution, and are a source of anxiety for many students.
Lower-income students are less likely to be able to afford graduate school, especially with the current average undergraduate debt at approximately $19,000. Those who do elect to undertake additional debt to pursue graduate studies can experience higher stress levels, longer completion times and lower retention levels.
Post-secondary education is part of a publicly funded institution and must remain as such to ensure every person, no matter her or his position in life, can access higher education.
Through unqualified and thereby unjustified increases to these fees, the U of M is explicitly saying money is the ultimate goal -- not providing a public education to Manitobans.
Brianne Goertzen is the general coordinator of the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba.