Tuition planning highlights focus on quality and student supports

Following a tuition freeze for most programs last year, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is now working on its tuition plans for the 2021/22 academic year.

The recently announced budget from the Province of Saskatchewan included a multi-year funding commitment, unique in Canada, providing enhanced predictability for USask in forecasting future revenue streams, including tuition.

USask Provost Airini said tuition is set following the Board of Governors-approved principles of affordability, comparability, quality, predictability and transparent consultation, with an eye towards ensuring undergraduate and graduate students continue to receive an education that is one of the highest in quality and value, and affordable, in Canada.

“Tuition is a critical part of USask’s operations, currently accounting for about one-third of our operating revenue each year,” said Airini. “In combination with the provincial grant, tuition revenue helps support financial aid for students, libraries, student services, faculty and staff salaries, IT, and other infrastructure necessary as a world-class university for Saskatchewan and from Saskatchewan.”

USask is a member of the U15, a group of Canada’s top research intensive universities, and has tuition rates lower than most other U15 members, a surprising fact when considering the quality of programs and faculty at USask, as well as state-of-the-art facilities like the Canadian Light Source, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and the Global Institutes for Water and Food Security. 

“Being among the best universities in Canada, and in select areas the best in the world, is a point of pride for our students, as it is for us,” the provost said. “Tuition is vital to maintaining our world-class reputation and ensuring our students have one of the best university experiences and are exceptionally well-prepared when they graduate. Without tuition revenue, we simply could not meet our academic mission.”

Airini said she understands how important this investment is for students who choose to attend USask.

“We know this is a significant investment for our students and their families, and we are focused on program and delivery enhancements to ensure that our students are set up for success in their chosen fields. The method of program delivery, whether in class, remote, or a blend of both, does not change the high quality and exceptional value of a USask degree.”

Additionally, Patti McDougall, vice-provost, Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience, said students who are facing financial hardships have a wide array of financial supports available to them, another service that is supported by tuition revenue.

“To assist with affordability and accessibility, USask provides over $67 million annually in financial aid, through scholarships, bursaries, and other forms of financial aid,” McDougall said. “Students are our highest priority and we will continue to work with them to ensure their needs, financial and otherwise, are supported.”

While Airini said she understands students’ perspective in wanting a tuition freeze, she said tuition is a revenue source needed now more than ever.

“The university needs the resources provided by tuition to be able to adapt to this changing learning environment and to ensure we can continue to offer a world-class educational experience. And the cost of providing these resources increases every year,” said Airini. 

Despite the challenges, financial and otherwise, USask has faced over the past 13 months of the pandemic, one thing hasn’t changed—the university’s commitment to its community and providing top-quality academic programming. 

“We have immense financial pressures as a result of decreased revenue, which included last year’s tuition freeze, where we were one of the only universities in Canada to hold tuition flat for most programs in an effort to assist students during a challenging time,” Airini said. “Increased expenses resulting from heavy investments in online education supports, training, and systems for faculty, teaching assistants, and students added further pressures. The university has also invested greatly in expanded emergency student financial aid and many other areas designed to assist faculty, students, and staff through COVID-19.”

Despite these additional costs and declines in revenue from ancillary services like residences, food services, parking, and conferences, Airini said, “USask’s first priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff—while providing the highest quality of teaching and learning. When USask students graduate this year and in following years, they’ll have had an enriching learning experience and will receive a degree from USask, a university that is recognized provincially and globally for the high quality of its graduates.” 

Following final review and approvals, tuition rates for the 2021/22 academic year will be posted by the end of April.

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