Saskatchewan students paying second highest tuition in country

Help! I've fallen (into dept), and I can't get up! /image: Spencer Reid

Help! I’ve fallen (into dept), and I can’t get up! /image: Spencer Reid

Are government scholarships to blame for high costs?

Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer

High prices for post-secondary students in Saskatchewan may come at its own cost – scholarships opportunities.

According to Statistics Canada’s release earlier in the month, Saskatchewan undergraduate students are paying the second-highest tuition fees in the country, behind Ontario.

Brian Christie, the University of Regina’s Associate Vice President, Resource Planning, attributes government scholarship programs, as a reason tuition fees are so high for Saskatchewan students.

“The Government of Saskatchewan at the moment is really reducing the amount of funding increases they are giving [the U of R] each year, and they are putting more money directly into the hands of the students.”

The Government Retention Program, which offers Saskatchewan post-secondary students $20,000 over eight years of living in the province after they have graduated, and the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship, implemented in 2012, which provides Saskatchewan high school graduates who continue their education in the province $500 off their tuition fee for up to four years, are two programs where Christie says the government is focusing their money.

“We increased tuition fees by 4.4 per cent, true. But you take into account all the new scholarship money and so on, it’s not that large an increase. They’d rather put the money directly in the student’s hands than give it to the institution and let us hold down tuition fees.”

Christie is disturbed by the results in the Statistics Canada report stating that when the numbers are calculated, the definition of undergraduate students “aren’t really true undergraduate programs.”

“When they calculate the average fee for each province, they simply take the average fee paid by all the students,” adding that medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine second-degree professional programs—who pay substantially higher program costs—are the result of Saskatchewan’s high average.

Mike Sweeny, a sixth year film production major, says he is glad that the government is rewarding those who continue to build the province, but has his doubts.

“We are the future of the province that is rapidly building, but the problem is it cuts so many out of getting to that point by not being able to afford to finish their degree.”

Sweeny acknowledges his fortune of having a college fund started for him as a child but states it’s still not enough.

“Scholarships are there, but not everyone is in the one per cent that receive those.”

Christie says the effect of financial cuts from the government scholarship programs make it difficult for the university.

“We’ve looked very carefully at where we can make cuts and where we need to increase spending. If the government is not giving us that funding [they use to], we don’t use student’s fees for [upkeep of university buildings], but it does have an impact on us.”

Despite the high tuition fees, Christie states that the U of R has the fourth lowest additional fees (e.g. building fees and IT fees) for students.

“We have deliberately kept those extra fees that students have to pay to the university low. We don’t want to fool you with the sticker price.”

So, for those who finish their degree in the province will find an incentive to stay, whether the cost of getting there is second-highest in the country or not.

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