Student fees finalized for 2012-13
Student consultations took place in March
Ryan McNutt - April 18, 2012
At Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting, the Board voted to approve the Budget Advisory Committee’s (BAC) final student fee recommendations for 2012/13.
The BAC announced its initial recommendations on tuition and fees to the Dal community in early March. After a series of student consultations—part of a new Board-approved process—some revisions were made, including lowering the proposed fee increase for dentistry and creating an opt-out option for a new Blackberry Playbook fee for first-year engineering.
“The consultations were very informative—hopefully as much for the students as for us,” says Carolyn Watters, vice-president academic and provost, and chair of the BAC.
“It was our first time through the process, and became clear that many of our students are eager to be engaged in this process – not just when it comes to providing feedback on the fees themselves, but in how we make overall budgeting decisions at the university.”
Other BAC recommendations that came out of the student consultations included that:
- Letters of acceptance, and the Dalhousie University Calendar, should include a clear statement about the need for students to plan for increases in tuition and other fees.
- The combined Engineering, Science, Computer Science Co-op office and its consolidated co-op fees (resulting in an increase) should be reviewed after one year to ensure the change has been effective.
- The criteria used by the Board to determine tuition fee adjustments should be reviewed.
Dr. Watters also indicates that there will be changes to the consultation process itself next year. Chief among these are a closer working relationship with the respective deans’ offices so that sessions for specific groups are not scheduled at inopportune times, having the sessions led by a third-party facilitator, and adding additional consultations prior to the fees being announced.
“We heard from students with lots of ideas about spending priorities, and how we should review our budget to find savings, but by the time we’re into March and discussing fees, it’s really too late in the game for those sorts of changes,” she explains. “By adding earlier sessions, after our first BAC report for the year, we’re hoping to have an opportunity to see some of those ideas through into our budgeting process.”
Read: Student Consultations Summary on Proposed Fees [PDF]
Fee increases reflect budget reality
Some of the highlights of the approved fee changes include:
- A 3 per cent tuition fee increase in all programs and the international differential fee. (Two exceptions are MSc Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, which remain frozen at 2006-07 level.)
- Additional increases in Law, Medicine and Dentistry, as allowed for under the MOU with the province. The total increase in Law will be 5 per cent, with a total increase of 6 per cent in Medicine and Dentistry.
- An increase in the Facilities Renewal Fee by 3 per cent to $77.25 per term to help address the university’s deferred maintenance needs.
- An increase of 3 per cent in the Student Services fee, plus a $3 per term wellness fee to support hiring more part-time counsellors, increasing evening/weekend appointment hours.
- Increases in the co-op seminar fee (to $300) and co-op fees (to $500) for Engineering, Science and Computer Science, to align the fees for all three programs towards the planned merger of the offices. (These programs are currently being subsidized by the university at high rates of 75-81 per cent.)
- A 2.75 per cent increase in residence and meal plan rates.
Ken Burt, vice-president finance and administration, notes that these increases reflect the Dal’s funding reality at the moment.
“I think our students understand that when we’re getting less money from the government as it balances its affairs, there are two ways for us to address that: finding savings in our budget, and raising fees,” he says. “And we have to treat both of those decisions responsibly because of how they affect our students, whether in the amount they pay, or in the quality of their education and services.”
He notes that while the tuition fee increases will bring in approximately $3.5 million, the university will be finding almost double that ($6.6 million) in savings. He also adds that the Dal's enrolment has helped insulate the university from more extreme measures, in terms of both fees and cuts.
“Had we not seen the enrolment growth in recent years, the circumstances would be a lot more challenging…we’ve been cushioned from the worst of it.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board also voted to request a full report on all ancillary and auxiliary fees collected by the university, to be reviewed this fall.