Why attend the University of Manitoba? It’s a question that can be asked in two contexts: why does the U of M seemingly feel weighed down by political decisions of the provincial government? And why should a student come to the U of M despite these struggles? Within the past five years, the U of M has been affected by two strikes, one strike threat, three straight years of tuition increases and budget cuts that took international students off the provincial health-care plan.
In 2016, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) went on strike for 21 days. A year later, the provincial government mandated the U of M to freeze wages. This is one of the primary reasons UMFA declared this year’s strike.
Since professors started seeking the compensation they deserve, the university began feeling the pressure to bring UMFA members’ salaries up to appropriate levels and to compensate lost wages. This dispute has put a great burden on students, so it wouldn’t be surprising if future students were wary of attending a university that cannot guarantee basic education.
In 2018, the provincial government decided to cut international students out of the provincial health-care system. As a result, international students now have to pay for private insurance independently. The U of M has over 6,000 international students enrolled in any given term and prides itself on being a great place for international students to attend post-secondary studies in Canada. With this added cost, students will likely look to other provinces for their post-secondary education — a majority of which continue to keep international students in their provincial health-care system.
For the past three years, students have seen tuition increase by 14.1 per cent. With the difference in tuition gap becoming closer and closer, we will see more students leave to other top ranked U15 universities simply because the gap in tuition isn’t large enough to compensate the difference in education. This increase in tuition is linked to the provincial government cutting the university’s budget the past three years.
Why are these things happening? The government believes it is looking out for the best interests of the province. However, raising a productive province should mean building the next generation of workers up, not tearing them down. Without proper consultation about students’ concerns, our institution will lose key demographics and enrolment will become less competitive. With students looking elsewhere, so will large swaths of Manitoba’s labour force. This short-sightedness will surely lead to the overall decline of Manitoba. The future looks bleak, but these problems can be solved with the reinstatement of international students on the provincial health-care system and less government interference.