Tuition increases for second consecutive year

Budget includes new student supports, lacks Indigenous initiatives funding

It will be more expensive to be a U of M student again this year.

The university has approved its budget and laid out its fiscal priorities for the upcoming school year, including a 3.75 per cent increase in tuition, after a one per cent reduction in the U of M’s operating grant, or $3.5 million, was introduced in Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government’s 2019-20 budget in March.

The increase is just over half of last year’s tuition increase of 6.6 per cent.

While the general operating fund budget submission by the U of M board of governors says total enrolment is “expected to remain static,” tuition revenue will increase $10.3 million and the overall operating budget will increase by $11.3 million.


Additional funding to combat racism, sexual violence

Notable allocations of this increase include $250,000 to “anti-racism initiatives and sexual violence supports.”

U of M spokesperson John Danakas said while there were no solid programs in place for the funding yet, discussions are ongoing.

“Counselling services and others will be looking into how best to utilize the new funding,” he said.

UMSU president Jakob Sanderson said the union is advocating for some of this funding to go toward a sexual violence resource centre, and while conversations are “preliminary and confidential,” he said a proposal regarding a possible resource centre had been submitted months prior by the office of human rights and conflict management.

“We’re in meetings consistently about the planning around that,” he said.

“It’s something we have every expectation will go forward.”

He added UMSU “now has reason to be entirely confident that [there will be] a sexual violence resource centre will be funded in full by the university as a pilot this year.”

According to Sanderson, a minimum of between 25 and 30 per cent of the funding will be put toward anti-racism efforts.

“My understanding at this point is that a very large portion of that is going to be going specifically toward anti-Indigenous racism,” he said.


Indigenous initiatives funding not shown in budget

This is the first U of M budget in a decade where the word “Indigenous”— or “Aboriginal,” in earlier budgets ­­­­— is not included.

While the university continues to make good on its National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation funding goal — which is in its fourth of five years — the Indigenous initiatives funding which had a place in every U of M budget since 2016 no longer appears.

Despite this, Danakas said funding for Indigenous achievement is ongoing, and funds from prior years will continue to be used this year, referring to Indigenous scholars funding from previous years’ budgets.

“In years past, there have been one-time allotments for a particular project, and there may not be this year, but the ongoing funding for projects and programs like Indigenous scholars continues,” he said.

In the 2018-19 budget, $500,000 was allocated to the Indigenous initiatives fund.

The 2017-18 budget recommended a fiscal-only amount of $500,000 to be used for the Indigenous initiatives fund.

Danakas said this Indigenous initiatives fund was for “special projects and programs that were funded.”

“And there will be more in the future.”

The 2018-19 Indigenous initiatives fund was part of the university’s 2015-2020 strategic plan and has been allocated to 13 projects including a summer interdisciplinary studio course and the hiring of Indigenous Elders-in-residence. The fund supported 13 projects in 2017-18 and 22 in 2016-17. Sanderson said discussions within the budget advisory committee included Indigenous student support.

“There has been a lot of movement in terms of Indigenous language programs, a lot of great work done by the University of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association as well as faculty within the department of Native studies,” he said.


Budget prioritizes healthcare shift for international students, additional student supports

Budget prioritizes healthcare shift for international students, additional student supports

After the provincial government cancelled healthcare coverage for international students in 2018, the U of M covered health insurance coverage costs for the 2018-19 year. This year, however, students will be expected to pay a mandatory healthcare fee.

The university has allotted $835,000 to, as the budget documents put it, “assist international students in the transition” out of provincial healthcare.

The budget also includes an additional $1.7 million for awards, bursaries and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students.


UMSU supports budget despite disappointment

Despite expressing concerns with the increases to student fees, both Sanderson and UMSU’s vice-president advocacy Sarah Bonner-Proulx voted in support of the 2019-20 budget, which neither had done after the 6.6 per cent tuition increase last year.

Sanderson said the budget’s additional allocation to student resources and the UMSU executive’s recognition of additional cuts from the province were the reasoning for UMSU’s support.

“With the type of funding losses the university’s faced due to the provincial cuts the last two years, we understand the rationale for those tuition increases,” he said.

Previous years have shown varying responses to U of M budgets by UMSU executives. In the 2016-17 school year, the UMSU executive voted against the U of M budget, which did not include a tuition increase — as the cap on tuition hikes in the province had not been lifted yet — but did include a three per cent cut to funding across campus. In the 2017-18 school year, there were no budgetary cuts, and outside of cost of inflation, no increase to tuition for domestic or international students. The UMSU executive supported that year’s budget.

Sanderson said, this year, UMSU wanted to respond to the university’s efforts with a “sign of good faith.”