At Monday’s Board of Governors meeting (April 16), the Board voted to approve tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year.
As recommended by the Budget Advisory Committee in its 2018-19 Operating Budget Plan, the Board voted to approve a 3% general tuition increase for all programs and the international differential fee effective April 2018.
The fee changes will be combined with a 1.5% budget reduction to faculties and service units to balance the operating budget. The budget plan is informed by engagement across the Dal community over the past several months, including in-person budget sessions and a community survey with nearly 1,600 responses.
Balancing the budget given limited revenues
Carolyn Watters, provost and vice-president academic, says that given limited government funding, tuition fees have to be part of the solution to balance the operating budget and continue to ensure quality programs and services/supports at the university.
“Our success depends on our ability to provide excellent programs and to be competitive nationally and internationally,” says Dr. Watters. “We will continue to strive to keep tuition rates competitive with other Canadian universities while reflecting the high quality of programs we offer.”
Each year Dal’s expenses increase by 3-4% — but with only a 1% increase in government funding, the university needs to look to tuition increases and budget cuts to ensure a balanced budget (as is required by the Board).
“Tuition is our second-largest revenue stream, at 39.5% of the operating budget,” says Dr. Watters. “The bulk of the remainder (50.8%) comes from the provincial government.”
In its report, Dal’s Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) acknowledges that Dal tuition — like tuition at most Nova Scotia universities — is above the average of peer universities across the country in many programs. (See page 30 of the supplemental report for a chart comparing tuition fees at various institutions.) However, absent significant changes in government funding and public policy, or new revenue streams being secured, the BAC expects tuition costs will continue to increase to meet rising costs in the foreseeable future.
Increasing student financial assistance
One theme that has emerged loud and clear in BAC’s ongoing budget consultations is the importance of student financial assistance. Students who responded to the BAC’s survey or attended in-person town hall discussions ranked “financial assistance for students in need” as the top priority for Dal to invest resources, while faculty and staff ranked it in their top three.
For the second straight year, the university’s budget plan will increase student assistance in the operating budget — this year by an additional $500,000. When combined with $250,000 more in endowment support, this represents a $750,000 increase in support for students in need.
Dalhousie spends 7% of total operating expenditures on scholarships and bursaries, as compared to an average of 5.1% at other U15 universities across Canada. Across all university funds (including endowment, ancillary, research and others), the university spends $67.4 million each year on direct financial support to students.
“Given the choice between a slightly smaller tuition increase for all students, or using some of that tuition revenue to increase targeted financial assistance to those students who need it most, it’s the view of the BAC that additional student assistance is the better option for Dal to pursue,” says Dr. Watters.
Full budget plan to be voted on by Board in June
The Board also voted to approve auxiliary fee changes as proposed by select programs, as well as 3% increases to the Student Service Fee, the Facilities Renewal Fee, residence rates and meal plan fees. It also signed off on fees voted on in the recent DSU elections for select student societies (Pharmacy and Commerce) and the $1.69 increase to the U-Pass fee as per Halifax Transit’s unit price increase.
The remainder of the Operating Budget Plan — available online at dal.ca/budget — will be voted on at the June Board of Governors meeting.
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