A recently obtained ATIPP reveals Memorial University of Newfoundland administration’s communications plan for tuition framework changes.
Communications Plan — Tuition framework changes
Version 7 Updated: July 5, 2021
After months of consideration of the university’s financial situation, at the May 12, 2021, meeting of the Board of Regents, the board approved a tuition increase effective fall 2022 with an inflationary factor implemented annually, subject to its approval of the university budget. On May 31, the provincial government brought in its budget and announced the end of government support for the tuition freeze and that the $68.4-million tuition fee revenue offset will be phased out over the next five years. This was a clear signal that Memorial must look at all sources of revenue and develop a new tuition framework to help cover the cost of providing university education.
Following receipt of the budget estimates from the province, the university administration revised the schedule of tuition increases, including a 4 per cent inflationary factor, to exactly offset the reduction in government funding. Note that this tuition framework proposal is not designed to provide additional financial support for students, or additional resources for programming.
On July 8, Memorial’s Board of Regents will vote on this revised proposal from university administration to adjust the current tuition framework for undergraduate courses and for MI certificate/diploma programs. Further, notice will be given of the university’s intention to adjust tuition for some graduate programs.
This plan outlines the communications activities that will happen after the board meeting.
It is anticipated that changes to Memorial’s tuition fee structure will receive widespread local, regional and national media attention and generate significant social media discussion, both positive and negative.
Note: No detailed information about the proposal will be shared by Memorial in advance of the Board of Regents meeting.
- Building understanding and support through clear and consistent communications
- Remaining empathetic to students concerns while sharing specific information to mitigate issues
- Seek endorsements/support from engaged third parties.
Current students – This group needs information on how the change will impact them and reassurance that the university is taking steps to mitigate negative impacts, with specific details on the grace period and inflationary increase. In recent years the majority of the student body has not participated in tuition-fee-related activism; for example, petitions to reduce tuition fees in light of online delivery during COVID-19 had limited engagement.
Prospective students and their influencers – This group is most impacted by the change and will require a targeted communications strategy to address their concerns. While this plan includes elements of that strategy, a comprehensive approach is under development by the Registrar’s Office. Prospective students need detailed information about tuition fees for 2022 and beyond; information about bursaries, scholarships and student aid; and information on Memorial’s services and benefits. Influencers include parents/guardians, supporters, loved ones, teachers and guidance counsellors.
Student leaders – The student unions [Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU), the Graduates Students’ Union (GSU); Grenfell Campus Students’ Union (GCSU) and the Marine Institute Students’ Union (MISU)], as well as the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-NL), are generally opposed to any increases in tuition and other fees. These groups regularly lead student protests against tuition increases. In 2017 some of these students interrupted a Board of Regents meeting to protest. However, student turnout for these protests is typically relatively low (less than 500). It is anticipated the national CFS organization will bring their resources to bear to support CFS-NL and seek national media coverage. A CFS-NL-organized rally in St. John’s on June 26 attracted approximately 150 attendees and generated some media coverage (CBC-NL: Anti-austerity rally-calls on N.L. government to keep tuition freeze; NTV: Students protest end of post-secondary tuition freeze; VOCM: International students feel discriminated against with substantially higher tuition fees). MISU has traditionally been less vocal about tuition issues.
Employees (faculty and staff) – In general, faculty and staff are aware of the impact of the long-standing tuition freeze has had on the institution. Staff are typically not vocal on issues related to tuition and other fees for students. While some will support student leaders, there is an opportunity for employees to address misinformation and be advocates for Memorial.
Unions (faculty and employee) – Typically, MUNFA/TAUMUN/LUMUN stand in solidarity with student unions and would support their activism through commentary and media efforts. NAPE and CUPE typically do not take a stand in such matters.
Alumni and donors – This group likes to be engaged about what is happening at Memorial. They will expect targeted communications outlining the rationale for this approach. On social media, some have spoken out on both sides of the issues and can be expected to continue this conversation, particularly if given the information they need to do so.
Provincial government – Both opposition parties will make this a political issue. The Progressive Conservative Party has focused on Memorial in recent weeks, suggesting that budget cuts, not fee increases, should be the focus. It is reasonable to assume that MHAs from all parties will be contacted by their constituents – including students/parents who do not support this change and would like the tuition freeze to remain in place.
Indigenous governments – Memorial has good relationships with Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, including the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Innu Nation of Nitassinan, the Southern Inuit of NunauKavut, the Miaqpukek Mi’kmaq First Nation and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation. Many Indigenous students receive band/nation financial support for their studies so it is important to ensure Indigenous governments have information about upcoming changes.
Media: Expect significant media interest, especially among local outlets. Higher education publications University Affairs, Academica, HESA blog, Ken Steele) are likely to cover this as well.
- Memorial is seen as the vanguard for affordable university education in Canada, particularly among activists who focus on student issues. It can be expected that the decision to increase fees will be met with opposition from these groups. At the same time, there has been growing public commentary about the need for the university to increase fees. Expect extensive public commentary.
- Spending at Memorial will be closely scrutinized, with a particular focus on senior salaries and expenses.
Summary of proposal
- Effective fall 2022, new domestic undergraduate students (Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian) will pay $600 per course.
- The differential for Canadian students will be removed.
- Effective fall 2022, international undergraduate students will pay $2,000 per course,
- Effective fall 2022, domestic Marine Institute diploma, advanced diploma and post-graduate certificate students (Newfoundland and Canadian) will pay $600 per course.
- The differential for Canadian students will be removed.
- Effective fall 2022, International Marine Institute diploma, advanced diploma and post-graduate certificate students will pay $2,000 per course.
- Four per cent inflationary factor, reflecting the inflation on goods and services in higher education, will be implemented every fall, beginning in 2022, to the domestic and international rates.
- Current students (including new students in fall 2021 and winter 2022 and spring 2022) will pay tuition at the current price per course plus a four per cent annual inflation increase between fall 2022-2025.
- Other fees are not included in this proposal.
- Graduate program tuition is not included in this proposal at this time.
- The Faculty of Medicine is not included in this plan. A multi-year budget is under development that will be presented to the Board of Regents in Fall 2021.
- Memorial University has announced a new schedule of tuition fees for undergraduate students entering in fall 2022.
- With this adjustment, Memorial’s undergraduate tuition will remain the most affordable in Atlantic Canada.
- Current students will have a four-year grace period with only inflation-based increases. This includes incoming students in the fall 2021, winter 2022 and spring 2022 semesters.
- The fee increase will bring the cost of a Marine Institute diploma of technology/technician diploma, an advanced diploma and post-graduate certificate courses (level 07 and 08), as well as the tuition fees for international students, in line with the costs of undergraduate courses for domestic and international students in other Memorial programs. Depending on the program, the new cost will be about 70-80 per cent of the Canadian average.
- This tuition framework adjustment is necessary given the provincial government’s planned removal of the $68.4-million tuition revenue offset over the next five years and the end of government support for the tuition freeze in place for the past 20 years.
- Memorial will support access for NL students in need via increased fundraising for bursaries and scholarships that support students in need and recognize high-achieving students.
- Increasing tuition fees is just one part of Memorial’s plan to balance its operating budget; other measures include reducing costs. Since 2016 Memorial has implemented $42 million in efficiencies in order to balance its budget. This work to find efficiencies will continue.
- The proposed increase in the undergraduate tuition rate is forecasted to provide an additional $54.3 million to the university budget from 2022-23 to 2026-27, in addition to $3.09 million to the Marine Institute.
- In 2021 tuition fees represent 15 per cent of the total funding for university education at Memorial, while the current average at other Canadian universities is 46 per cent. When these changes are fully implemented in fall 2026, tuition fees are expected to comprise approximately 35 per cent of Memorial’s funding for university education.
- Making this decision now ensures incoming students in fall 2022 have the information they need about the tuition rates they can expect throughout their programs.
- Implementing this change to Memorial’s tuition structure is complex and will take time. Over the coming days and weeks, the university will work to ensure all necessary details are considered to address implications for our students. Details will be communicated as they become available.
- Memorial will be proposing to increase tuition for some course-based masters programs that do not currently have differential fees. Many of these programs are well below the national average. The Board of Regents will be asked to consider this proposal at its September meeting.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor — primary spokesperson for overall impact
Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic) pro temp — secondary spokesperson for academic-related inquiries
Mr. Kent Decker, vice-president (finance and administration) — secondary spokesperson for inquiries related to budget and administration
Mr. Glenn Blackwood, vice-president (Marine Institute) — secondary spokesperson for inquiries related to Marine Institute
Dr. Ian Sutherland, vice-president (Grenfell Campus) pro temp — secondary spokesperson for inquiries related to Grenfell Campus.
Suggested timeline of staged approach to communications based on the assumption that the Board of Regents approves changes to tuition framework on Thursday, July 8
|Provincial government||Letter to Premier, Minister of Education, Minister of Health and Community Services||Immediately following Regents meeting, July 8||Letters|
|Indigenous governments||Letter to leaders from President||Immediately following Regents meeting, July 8||Letters|
|MLC||Meetings to share details, key messages Call on leaders to be champions, correct misinformation. Via WebEx||9 a.m., July 9||Statement/key messages document?|
|Student leaders (MUNSU, GSU, MISU, GCSU)||Meeting to discuss Details of proposal/ answer ‘why not’ Vianne Timmons, Mark Abrahams, Glenn Blackwood, Ian Sutherland Via WebEx||10-10:45 a.m., July 9||Statement Table of fees for current students over next 5 years Table of fees for new students as of 2022|
|Media||News conference/technical briefing Vianne Timmons, Mark Abrahams, Kent Decker, Glenn Blackwood In person||11 a.m., July 9||Speaking notes Powerpoint Media release with key facts/figures|
|University community||Email message to community (Newsline) Gazette||11 a.m., July 9||Statement|
|Media||TBD: Gov’t of NL news conference/technical briefing on changes to student aid for NL students in need||TBD|
|Comms advisors||Meeting to share details, key messages and communications implications||1 p.m., July 9||Key message document|
|Students (Undergraduate and graduate)||Email message to all students, all campuses explaining what changes mean for them||3 p.m., July 9||Hand out with key facts/figures Cover message/statement|
|Municipal leaders, donors, friends, provincial chambers of commerce||From the Desk of Vianne Timmons e-newsletter – special edition||3 p.m., July 9||Text|
|Federal government (NL reps)||Letter to NL representatives from President (NL representatives: Jack Harris, Gudie Hutchings, Yvonne Jones, Ken McDonald, Seamus O’Regan, Churence Rogers, Scott Simms)||Letters|
|Current + prospective students||Web pages with information about change, FAQs||As soon as possible after decision||Text|
Engage key stakeholders/supporters
This tactic aimed at ensuring key external stakeholders are aware of the plan to adjust tuition fees in 2022; have accurate and relevant information; and are able to speak knowledgeably if they choose to do so. Timing: July 10 onwards
|Alex Usher||Share media release|
|President’s Ambassadors/Advisory Group||Information shared via email from President Timmons|
|Provincial government deputy ministers||Include in agenda for future presentation from President Timmons at monthly “DM breakfast”|
|St. John’s Board of Trade executive||Information shared via email from President Timmons|
|Advisory boards of university units/groups: |
Faculty of Business Administration
Faculty of Engineering
Grenfell Campus Community
Marine Institute Advisory Committee
|Information shared via email from President Timmons|
Image format of document below:
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.