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Grenfell student union president worried fee hikes could affect foreign student enrolment

Sofia Descalzi, president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union in Corner Brook, addresses a throng of students at rally in 2016.
Sofia Descalzi, president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union in Corner Brook, addresses a throng of students at rally in 2016.

The president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union says raising the cost to study at Memorial University will have an impact on attracting foreign students like her.

On Wednesday, the MUN Students' Union issued a press release claiming the university had proposed a 16.3 per cent tuition fee increase for all students, a $450 annual “campus renewal fee” and a $50 “student services fee.”
The union said that could raise the cost for some students by more than $3,000 a year.
According to the students’ union, the proposal includes a yet-to-be-determined process for students who can prove they are from Newfoundland and Labrador to be eligible for a rebate on the additional fee.
Sofia Descalzi, president of the union at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, is from Ecuador and about to finish her psychology degree. She said the cost was one of the main things that attracted her to study at Memorial.
“If you ask international students why they came here, the first thing they will tell you is the low tuition fees,” said Descalzi. “So, it is going to be a big problem for Grenfell because students are not going to come to Newfoundland for the lovely weather and, if that’s no longer an asset Grenfell has, we will see more decreases in enrolment.”
Later in the day, Memorial University issued a statement condemning the union’s comments, calling the remarks inflammatory. According to Noreen Golfman, Memorial’s provost and vice-president academic, Memorial is still in its budget planning process and still discussing all possible options to address its budgetary shortfalls.
In the prepared statement, Golfman said the items referred to by the students’ union were only examples of what the university could do and were not proposals. She was disappointed the union had issued a press release insinuating this was the direction Memorial was taking.
Golfman said Memorial will hold a town hall meeting for the entire university community some time next week and that senior administration won’t be bringing any proposals regarding its finances to the Board of Regents until May 11.
Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne criticized both sides in an interview later Wednesday.
He said fees are something quite different from tuition and the students’ union should know that, considering it has been asking students to pay increases to its own union fees for years.
Byrne also noted Memorial University may need to consider doing more to rein in its own expenses instead of trying to increase its revenue on the backs of students.
Descalzi agreed the university consider other options rather than raising student fees.
“What we see is the university taking the easy way out and just charging students with more fees when we were not supposed to have any more increases,” she said.

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