Sask. post-secondary institutions freeze tuition costs among ‘unprecedented time’

Most students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and the University of Regina (U of R) won’t have to pay extra tuition for the 2020-21 academic year.

Each institution has decided on a zero per cent tuition increase because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The halt for Saskatchewan Polytechnic—which has campuses in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Regina—applies to both Canadian and international students.

“In this crisis, the majority of the essential workers are Saskatchewan Polytechnic graduates,” said Larry Rosia, president and CEO, in an interview on Thursday.

“We need our graduates to keep this economy going. That important role we play, it all led into the decision, and certainly the unprecedented global pandemic has kind of disrupted all of us.”

The institution is finalizing its plans for the next fiscal year and is working towards a balanced budget. Rosia said it’s a “balancing act” to meet the needs of students and employers while improving how it operates in a cost-effective way.

He said most students in the recent term were able to complete their programs. A little shy of 10 per cent, however, will have to be brought back in small class sizes.

Still, there’s a heavy concern about what September will bring.

“There’s still quite a lot of unknowns that we’re working our way through,” said Rosia. “The applications are strong, but the question mark is ‘Will students show up?’”

He said this is the first time Saskatchewan Polytechnic has seen a zero per cent tuition increase in over five years.

The unknowns of the next academic year are similar for the U of S.

The institution will need to ensure the current spring and summer terms, as well as the future fall term, adhere to government restrictions. Switching gears to teaching remotely has tacked on additional costs for the university.

“We hope that by maintaining tuition levels at their current 2019/20 rates in the majority of our programs for the upcoming year, current financial pressures felt by students and their families may be reduced,” said Anthony Vannelli, provost and vice-president academic at the U of S.

Tuition multipliers will remain unchanged at 2.73 for undergraduates students and 1.58 for graduate students. Tuition rates for the College of Dentistry, College of Law and Western College of Veterinary Medicine will see tuition increases ranging from three to 15 per cent because of their specific needs.

“This is an unprecedented time for members of our campus community,” said Vannelli.

The U of S has provided $175,000—on top of its usual scholarships and bursaries—to support graduate students in assistantships and has suspended late fees for tuition payments until August. It’s made $925,000 so far in payments from the Emergency Student Fund.

The U of R’s Board of Governors passed the zero per cent tuition increase on Tuesday. The total operating budget for the university is about $238 million.

According to a news release, it was able to do this partly thanks to the province’s post-secondary education support that provided the university with an increase of $1,070,000 this year.

The U of R also had a revenue higher than it anticipated from more enrolments last year, allowing it to have a balanced budget in 2020-21 without an increase in tuition.

“As the world contends with the economic and social repercussions of a global pandemic, the University of Regina’s 26th consecutive balanced operating budget is focused on providing stability and support for our students, faculty and staff,” said Roger Brandvold, chair of the U of R’s Board of Governors.

The release said if there are declines in enrolment or revenue, the university will manage it with savings in its operating costs.