|May 21, 1999||Volume 6, Number 17|
Millennium Fund money saves day for tuition fees, U of S operating budget
Following rumors that tuition costs at the U of S might be rising by as much as 20% to make up a shortfall in government funding, it was announced last week that the increase will be held to 1.9% and that the University's operating budget for 1999-2000 will see expenditures increase by $7.3 million, to a total of $188 million.
These happy developments - announced at last week's Board of Governors meeting - stem from a $9-million allocation of funding to the provincial government (announced on May 7) from the federal government's 10-year, $2.5-billion Millennium Scholarship Fund, first publicized in the fall of 1997.
The $9 million was designated for tuition relief - based almost entirely on financial need rather than scholarship - thus displacing $8.9 million the government had set aside for student loans. The $5 million one-time allocation to the University's operating budget comes from that displacement.
Talk of double-digit increases in student tuition began when the government announced in its recent budget that it was increasing the University's operating grant by only $1.4 million.
The University contended that that amount was insufficient to meet the established provincial pattern for salary settlements; projected increases in utilities; critical investment in an employee recruitment program; faculty start-up grants; graduate student support; and information systems development.
But when B of G chairman Hal Wyatt spoke to the media last week, he declared that he and the University "are very happy" that the enhanced funding will cover these "renewal" items for the University.
Asked if the 10-year Millennium Scholarship Fund means that tuition increases will be kept low during that time, Wyatt said he didn't know.
"There will be [such] funds available to us, but I don't think anyone can specify what they'll be. But we think they'll moderate the need for tuition increases."
Post-Secondary minister Maynard Sonntag noted that the criteria set out by the Millennium Foundation specify that the money must directly benefit students.
"So each year we'll be working with the Universities to direct the funds to the students...[and] we'll want to work with the Universities to determine how best to do that. The model we've set out this year isn't necessarily the exact way it'll be done next year...but my guess is that in the future it will be dedicated to tuition again, and roughly the same amount of money."
The 1.9% tuition increase means that tuition levels at the U of S will be far lower than all other major western universities, except for those in British Columbia where the provincial government has frozen tuition fees.
Board member and new USSU president Sean Junor said that any tuition increase for students isn't good. "But given the circumstances we're under and given some of the numbers that have been floated about, [the 1.9% increase] is welcome news."
Meanwhile, the operating budget focuses on maintaining high quality programs for students, through such measures as:
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