The Manitoba government announced an end to the tuition freeze Monday. But the freeze will remain in effect for one more year before tuition begins to climb.
Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford said that tuition increases would be carefully controlled to prevent rate shock. “Manitoba will continue to be the most affordable place in Canada to receive an education,” she said.
The tuition freeze has been in effect since 2000 when it was reduced by 10 per cent. The one-year extension of the freeze will be funded by a seven per cent increase in direct funding to universities. After the one-year extension, tuition will slowly rise back to 1999 levels. Monday’s announcement also included plans to double student bursaries and launch a review of post-secondary accessibility.
While the Canadian Federation of Students called the one-year extension a “victory for students,” the organization criticized the NDP government for breaking an election promise. “Manitobans re-elected Doer on the basis of his promises, including a tuition fee freeze,” said David Jacks, president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association and Manitoba spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Students. “This is a betrayal of Doer’s promise to Manitobans.”
But it is unclear whether the NDP government indeed promised the continuation of the tuition freeze during the last election. The Winnipeg Free Press reported last week that because the government did not promise to maintain the tuition freeze, there was a possibility the freeze would be lifted in this week’s budget. “It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the NDP campaign did not include a news release promising to maintain the tuition freeze,” a provincial source told the Free Press. “So there is a sense that this budget could include a phased move away from the tuition freeze.”
The CFS also took issue with the new funding for bursaries. “The Doer government’s plan to charge higher tuition fees while increasing bursaries makes no sense: for every $1 in new bursaries, students will be paying $1.75 more in fees. Doer is playing a shell game, and the result will be a $6 million cut to student aid,” said Jacks.
The bursary program will increase by $8 million over three years, which represents a doubling in funding. New bursaries will target northern and rural students.