LETTER: Newfoundland and Labrador Cannot Afford a MUNL Tuition Increase

Newfoundland and Labrador students at MUNL will be facing a whopping 150% increase in tuition in Fall 2022.

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As tuition skyrockets in Newfoundland and Labrador, studies are unveiling just how dire the population crisis is in NL. Recent census data and conversations emerging from the Harris Centre show that NL is the only province to see a steady decrease in population. Experts link low retention rates to cost of living, employment opportunities, and social programming. 

It’s no secret that a key part of increasing the population of the province is to retain young people. Retaining the youth of the province means there needs to be a possibility for youth to see a future here where paying off student debt, finding meaningful employment, making big purchases, and starting a life and family seems possible should they choose to. For many, the future does not look bright.

Newfoundland and Labrador students at MUNL will be facing a whopping 150% increase in tuition in Fall 2022. International students will see a doubling that will result in an undergraduate degree at MUNL increasing from an already staggering $43,120 to $84,930—the highest in Atlantic Canada. Out of province students will see an increase of $12,985 for their education. 

The provincial government says they recognize the need of having young people in the province, yet they continue to make post-secondary education increasingly unattainable in the lack of support they provide.

The Department of Immigration and Population Growth has already said that an important part of solving our population crisis is to increase immigration. What the government fails to acknowledge is that the goal of increasing immigration must be complemented with a solid plan on how to keep people in NL once they are here. This work requires addressing racism in hiring practices, healthcare access, lodging, and the policies that enable that racism. This work needs to be done in consultation with international students and groups who are doing anti-racist work in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Most international students come to Canada with the goal of achieving permanent residency. Permanent residency is extremely challenging to obtain, and it requires running through an obstacle course of political and financial barriers. Because international students are ineligible for federal programs such as Canada Summer Jobs and the Student Work Placement Program, international students often find themselves graduating without the work in their field and other meaningful employment opportunities required to secure post-graduate employment. In turn, many highly educated migrants in our province find work in some of our lowest-wage sectors with the potential of their residency at the hands of their employers. All of these barriers combined perpetuate racist systems that push away the very people that our government says they want to retain. 

While little change is being made to improve the lives of people who choose to get an education in NL and our population declines at an alarming rate, our post-secondary institutions and the Government of NL have decided that the answer is to increase tuition. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports in its January 18, 2022 study, Passing the Buck, students will pay a whopping third of the province’s deficit through that increase.

Increasing tuition only increases the likelihood that students will not get off their feet, increases the likelihood that students will not find meaningful employment here, and increases the likelihood that students will leave our province for greener pastures. 

Newfoundland and Labrador cannot afford a tuition increase. Now is the time to be bolder and commit to free tuition in Newfoundland and Labrador for all students. Now is the time to evaluate our immigration strategies to ensure international students can access all the same educational and employment opportunities as Canadian students. Now is the time to decide what the true way forward will be. 

Students in NL are facing increasingly large barriers in accessing education, finding meaningful employment, and starting their lives and families. Meanwhile, our post-secondary institutions and government are rearranging furniture in the Titanic, asking students to push harder from below.

CFSNL Queer Students Rep and Interim Chair, Derek Semerad (he/him) has a 6 year background in student organizing and a pronounced focus on equity legislation, effective policy creation, and long walks on the beach with very small dogs. He is currently studying Business Administration, following a 2017 B.A. in Anthropology and German.

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