Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com
LUSU president Ian Kaufman says they took a new approach after years of protesting tuition hikes didn't result in any progress.
The Lakehead University Student Union traded their protest signs for negotiation tactics after the university's board of governors approved a tuition hike for the eight consecutive year.
LUSU executives decided to accept the three per cent increase, approved at Friday's board meeting, and submit recommendations to the board asking for greater transparency in the university's finances.
Student union president Ian Kaufman said they changed their approach this year because after eight straight years of protests and tuition hikes that went ahead anyways, they saw it wasn't working.
"I think it's a recognition the university is in a tough position with provincial underfunding and trying to be more effecting in working with the university rather than against them because it hasn't worked," he said Monday.
"If the university is cooperative and does provide transparency in terms of their finances and it comes out they really do have no choice, then we can stand beside the university to ask for a different funding framework provincially," Kaufman added.
LUSU provided their recommendations to the board last week and they include a third party review of Lakehead's finances to ensure the money from tuition is going towards the core functions of the university - teaching and research.
Kaufman said tuition has risen 40 per cent in the past eight years and they would also like to see improvements made to their educational experience; those improvements would include items like increased library hours and a greater focus on deferred maintenance.
The student union has begun talks with administration on the recommendations and Kaufman said the university seems willing to listen.
Board chairman Cameron Clark said he commends LUSU for their new approach and willingness to work on solutions rather than throwing their hands up and saying the government and university aren't responsive.
"I think working together to find the best way of addressing these issues is the way to do it," said Clark, adding they want to meet with the student union and find common ground.
The tuition hikes have been necessary to balance the best educational opportunities they can for students amidst rising costs.
Clark said tuition covers about 50 per cent of revenue used for operating costs at LU and the other half comes from grants and funding from the province.
"The only real flexibility we have to meet sort of fiscal challenges moving forward is through some measured, thoughtful raising of tuition," he said.
A three per cent rise translates to about $172 for an average undergraduate student and the increase will take effect starting in the fall.
The board and administration is open to discussions with LUSU on their recommendations; university president Brian Stevenson met with the student union Monday morning.
In response to LUSU's request to have a third-party audit done of the university's finances, Clark said the board has an independent audit done on the budget every year before it's voted on.