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Acadia student union president says tuition increase could harm students' mental health

The Acadia Student Union building.
The Acadia Student Union building. - Sara Ericsson

Proposed tuition hike would mean $500 more for Canadian and $1,000 for international students

WOLFVILLE – A proposed tuition increase at Acadia University has the school’s student union president fearing its impact on the mental health of students.

Acadia Student Union president Grace Hamilton-Burge says the lack of student consultation on the university’s tuition increase that will be proposed to its board of directors this Friday is “disappointing.”

She says this year has been hard on students, with the university narrowly avoiding job action, and that now is not the right time for a tuition increase since students are already facing stress with their exams.

Students walking to class near the campus' University Hall building.
Students walking to class near the campus' University Hall building.

“Acadia is already expensive, so now students who already struggle financially have to afford even higher tuition. That’s a lot of weight on them,” she says.

Cost but one of many factors to consider: Roberts

Scott Roberts is the executive director communications at the school and says the proposed tuition increase is the result of “rising costs everywhere” and is but one of many factors students must consider in choosing which post-secondary institution to attend.

“I think the cost of education is a determining factor for everyone. All of us, the post-secondary institutions across the country, are all well-aware of how much it costs students to attend an institution of higher learning,” he says.

The university’s 2017-2018 school year cost Nova Scotia students pay $6,899 in tuition fees, Canadian students $8,182, and international students $16,380.

If passed at the university’s board of governors April 20 meeting, these fees will rise by about $500 and $1,000 for domestic and international students, respectively, and will come into effect for all programs beginning September 2018.

Roberts says while the government’s tuition cap expires after this year, another will likely be put in place to moderate future tuition increases.

Acadia communications executive director Scott Roberts says rising tuition fees are but one factor for students to consider when choosing a university to attend.
Acadia communications executive director Scott Roberts says rising tuition fees are but one factor for students to consider when choosing a university to attend.

“The current understanding is there will be a cap on the percentage increase allowed going forward. That number we believe is three per cent,” he says.

Student survey to reveal their thoughts on proposed increase

Hamilton-Burge says the Student Counselling Centre saw a significant increase in students accessing mental health services during strike negotiations.

She and two other student representatives will vote with the board of governors on the proposed tuition increase as it is presented as part of the school’s budget, and hopes the board considers the impact higher tuition will have on students.

The union was also disappointed with the lack of notice of this proposed increase – Hamilton-Burge says they were notified within the last few weeks, while the student sitting in the budget advisory council’s confidential meetings on tuition increase has known much longer.

The ASU also sent a survey to each Acadia student asking what their thoughts on proposed tuition hikes were and will present the findings at Friday’s board meeting.

“Had [the ASU] been informed earlier, we could’ve had forums, information sessions and other events. Much could’ve been done to prevent this,” she says.

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