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Dalhousie engineering students fight big tuition increase

Some engineering students say they're not getting their money's worth now

3 min read
caption DUES is holding events to let engineering students voice their concerns.
Trent Erickson
DUES is holding events to let engineering students voice their concerns.
caption DUES is holding events to let engineering students voice their concerns.
Trent Erickson

The Dalhousie Undergraduate Engineering Society (DUES) is working closely with the Dalhousie Student Union to fight a proposed tuition increase for engineering students.

“We’re offering a united front against this,” said Yazan Khader, the DSU’s Sexton campus director.

Engineering students face some of the biggest tuition hikes at Dalhousie — another 15 per cent on top of the three per cent already in place for students.

The increase would happen over three years. Tuition would climb from $8,993 in 2015-16 to $10,611 in 2018-19.

Many engineering students took part in a protest on Feb. 9, and the DUES and the DSU are planning more events where engineering students can make their voices heard.

On the Sexton campus, where engineering classes are held, students are angry.

“Look at this building, it’s a piece of crap and this is what we’re studying in,” said Mohsin Hashmi, a third-year engineering student.

Hashmi said services are “practically non-existent” on the campus and there are no study spaces.

“Even classrooms sometimes don’t sit the number of students in a class,” said Khader.

These students don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth right now, let alone after a 15-per-cent increase.

“I want the hikes to be taken off what’s being proposed and to acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t make sense for students to pay more while getting less,” said Khader.

Reason for increase

But Carolyn Watters disagrees. She’s the chairwoman of Dalhousie’s budget advisory committee, which recommended the three per cent across-the-board increase over three years, and the additional 15 per cent increase to engineering tuition.

“The costs of running the university go up faster than the incremental increase from the provincial government,” said Watters.

Dalhousie’s engineering program is less expensive than the average cost of other Canadian engineering programs. The budget advisory committee also flagged the faculty of engineering as one that could benefit from additional funding.

“In the case of engineering, half of the reset difference will go directly back into programs for improvement,” said Watters, explaining what will happen with the extra money from the tuition bump.

She said even though next year’s budget for engineering will be less than it was this year, the faculty will have more money. Since engineering is a growing faculty, the increase in money from the extra students will offset their diminished budget and even cause it to grow.

Watters also points to the IDEA building that’s currently under construction on Sexton campus as another reason why engineers are getting a fair value for their tuition.

One thing that both Watters and engineering students agree on is that increases are not ideal.

“We really wrestle with this issue because it’s hard for every family, it’s hard for every student to be paying more,” said Watters.

“We’re very cognizant of that and most of us have children who have been through the system.  We’re doing our best to be as responsible as we can.”

The budget advisory committee will release its final report later this month. The process will be finalized in June.

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