You want a great business school that can compete with Canada's best? Pay up big-time.

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This article was published 6/4/2010 (4310 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Asper School dean Glenn Feltham says business schools need to hire the best faculty members.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Asper School dean Glenn Feltham says business schools need to hire the best faculty members.

You want a great business school that can compete with Canada's best? Pay up big-time.

You want a good education but a degree that won't be perceived as having the same weight as grads of the best schools? Then don't pay more.

That's the choice, I.H. Asper School of Business dean Glenn Feltham is telling students facing the prospect of enormous tuition increases.

"Our current tuition level is out of line with other business schools. We have done as much as we can on our limited resource base," Feltham told a town hall forum Tuesday morning that was attended by about 150 students.

Feltham wants to add $15,000 for MBA students over three years, a 78.5 per cent increase, and $2,500 over two years for undergrads, a 54.1 per cent increase. The dollar amounts would be triple for international students.

"Business schools are different than other units," the dean declared. "We need to be able to hire the absolute best faculty members.

"Our faculty members cost a lot, and they should," because every business professor has the option of a lucrative career outside academia, Feltham said.

Without that money, the business school will not be competitive with Canada's best, the value of a degree may be perceived as less valuable, and maybe, just maybe, the school might have problems renewing its professional accreditation in five years, said Feltham.

Throughout, Feltham danced a fine line, emphasizing that the Asper School is a good school that offers a good education, and always will regardless of how much money it has. But he often used a "but" to justify the huge jump.

"It will allow us to be competitive. It will affect both the real and perceived value of your degree," Feltham said.

Feltham said the school would spend the money on 20 more faculty members, more programs and courses and classroom upgrades, as well as financial aid for students who can't afford the higher fees. Neither the provincial government nor U of M's central administration can provide enough money "for a business school to be great. We have fundamentally different cost bases that can only be covered off by tuition," Feltham said.

At least eight schools at U of M are developing proposals for massive tuition increases for September that president David Barnard will take to Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford later this month. Business is the first, and so far only, school to hold town halls and public consultation.

U of M released a list of its internal guidelines for those huge hikes Tuesday -- among them, the schools would pocket 70 per cent of the new money, put 15 per cent into financial aid for students and return 15 per cent to the university for shared services such as libraries.

Some students who packed the town hall feared that there wouldn't be enough financial aid for them to cover the additional costs. "I'm tapping out on my debt," said one young woman.

They demanded evidence that the money -- $3.2 million a year from undergraduate tuition -- could produce improvements fast enough for them to benefit before graduation.

Some urged that increases be grandfathered, applied only to new students. Feltham gave a little ground on that, saying some smaller increase for current students might be feasible.

One student said that if he has to pay U of M as much as he would at the University of British Columbia, then UBC is a great school and Vancouver is a beautiful place to live.

U of M Students Union president Sid Rashid told the town hall that "every faculty on this campus is in trouble." If some jack up their fees and have more money, then the university will likely reduce their funding and put scarce dollars where there's a greater need.

"It's ridiculous these proposals are coming to students in the last week of classes," Rashid said. "There are students that are barely getting by now."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca