TRU raises tuition two per cent, students cry foul

It may only be $70 or so a year, but a tuition increase approved by TRU's board Thursday adds one more brick to the already heavy load students carry, says the school's student union.

Nathan Lane, the executive director of the Thompson Rivers University Student Union local 15, said he thinks the board of governors made the wrong choice approving a two-per-cent across-the-board tuition increase.

"We need a tuition freeze and a rollback," Lane said. "We think this is the wrong direction for institutions to be heading."

The board approved the increase largely to fund higher costs related to the progression of staff through previously negotiated wage grids.

"This is the challenge all universities face," said Cliff Neufeld, TRU's vice-president of administration and finance, as he briefed the board prior to the vote.

"If you don't have (tuition) increases, how are you going to cover the increased costs? You will have some tough choices to make."

The board approved the increase unanimously.

The TRUSU wanted the board to reject the proposed increase and pressure the provincial government for more money.

Lane said the board's refusal to take a stand against tuition increases relieves the provincial government of its duty to properly fund post-secondary education.

"We know the board is under a hard pinch," said Lane. "But at some point, if boards continue to pass the burden to students, there will never be an incentive for the government to fund education properly."

Acting TRU president Roger Barnsley said the board does not make these decisions lightly.

"We have a whole set of costs that go up each and every year," he said. "You have to keep your revenue moving ahead as well.

"Everybody is sympathetic to the cost of education for students . . . and if it were possible, we would find a way to hold those costs steady or reduce them."

If these increases are not made, the day will come when the board will cut staff and programs to balance the budget, Barnsley said. Such cuts would seriously impact the quality of education.

"You have to look at the issue in the whole context," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Neufeld outlined for the board some of the financial pressures TRU will likely face in the coming years, including uncertain funding from government and the prospect of fewer students because of changing demographics.

The school must also negotiate new contracts with all its faculty and staff, as all collective agreements expired March 31.

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