Memorial University is considering a 16.3 per cent tuition hike, with a rebate for Newfoundland and Labrador students as part of a move to make up for a budget cut — according to the students' union on campus.
In a news release Wednesday morning, the union (MUNSU) said the proposal will have a "devastating impact" on students.
But in a counter statement, the university's vice-president said it is just one of many options put forward at a Monday meeting of a planning and budget committee.
Noreen Golfman slammed the student group for going public before decisions are made.
"Committee members heard me say repeatedly that these were not 'proposals,' but examples of where we could go — not where we necessarily would go," said Golfman, who described the MUNSU statement as "inflammatory."
Golfman said all the information will be shared with academic and student leaders at a special Senate meeting set for April 24.
"We have some tough choices ahead," she acknowledged.
Renata Lang, director of external affairs with MUNSU, said the university is also proposing to charge all students a $450 annual campus renewal fee to maintain buildings and infrastructure and a $50 per semester student services fee.
"Additional fees means new costs for students," said Lang. She said international students and those in programs that require them to have a full course load will take the biggest hit.
As for undergraduate tuition, documents provided by MUNSU show the university is considering a three-tier system with Newfoundland and Labrador residents paying $2,550 (after a rebate), other Canadians paying $2,965 and international students $10,233.
Lang said there could be confusion over who qualifies for a rebate, and she is concerned about targeting students who were not born in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"To retain students here, we need to maintain a freeze for everyone."
Need to be accountable
The Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Gerry Byrne said he has not yet seen any proposals, and will wait to see what the university's board of regents approves in May.
Byrne told CBC News Wednesday that MUN has the right to set its own tuition and fees.
The provincial government has reduced the university's operating grant by $11.9 million, double what was expected according to MUN's president, Gary Kachonoski.
However, Byrne called on the university to be more accountable for its spending.
"We provide more money to MUN than the government of Nova Scotia provides to 10 of its universities combined."
The students' union suggested the university look at saving money by reducing the amount spent on recruitment and travel.