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Donors? Did you get a tax receipt, Greg?

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That was an interesting little ceremony that Canadian Mennonite University held this week, Tuition Freedom Day.

It’s the day on which students’ tuition stops covering the costs of their education during the fiscal year, and other revenue takes over.

CMU referred to the major "donors" as government, churches, and individuals.

When I made inquiries, CMU allowed as how maybe it should be calling the government a "funder" instead of a donor.

Um, yeah, I would think so.

The province provides $4.093 million a year, which is hardly chump change.

Anyhow, CMU’s annual report lists tuition and fees as the largest portion of revenue, about $500,000 more than government grants. General donations are $1.5 million, and there’s an additional $2.9 million from rentals, meals, and various sales and services. Strikes me that that last is serious coin in an overall budget, for a school without a high-powered research network.

U of M and U of W don’t conduct such tuition-freedom days, but I reckon that if they did, they’d come earlier in the fiscal year. Maybe a lot earlier. And the provincial grants cover quite a bit more money than the tuition fees — U of M’s annual report has the province at 52 per cent, tuition at 17 per cent of overall revenues.

Maybe I should take some time with the public university budgets to do the math on when tuition freedom day would occur... which would guarantee one thing: emails from the Canadian Federation of Students arguing for lower tuition than the current tuition that’s government-capped and third-lowest in the country.

But I digress.

Under its deal with the province, CMU must charge higher tuition — in practical terms, more dollars for a credit hour — than the public universities, in order to get public money.

CMU only gets government donations — darn, had me going there, let’s try again — only gets public operating grants, because the Filmon Tories approved it in the late '90s just before losing office. Same with the Bible colleges — the Tories gave annual public funding to Steinbach Bible College, Providence University College, and Booth University College.

The NDP gave some thought to removing that funding early in their tenure, but decided it was too much grief.

If and when the Tories sit down with me and discuss their education platform, as I requested recently, one of the things I’ll be asking about will be their plans for government support for private schools.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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