University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union vice-president external affairs Chris Stoicheff showed a short video of NDP Members of the Legislative Assembly reading petitions to the Legislature that the Saskatchewan Students’ Coalition had given them.
Cam Broten, Saskatoon Massey Place, read a petition asking for a long-term tuition increase strategy. Kim Trew, Regina Coronation Park, read a petition to have a Saskatchewan student scholarship fund set up. This was a campaign promise made by the Sask. Party during the 2007 election. Darcy Furber, Prince Albert Northcote, read the third and final petition, which asked for a decrease in fixed-rate interest rates on Saskatchewan student loans. Saskatchewan students currently pay the highest interest on such loans in the country.
Student fee increase
USSU vice-president operations and finance Scott Hitchings brought forward a motion to increase USSU student fees by five per cent for the 2010-11 school year. This would amount to $2.95 per student. Hitchings reminded everyone of USSU general manager Caroline Cottrell’s presentation and said that while this increase is necessary now, the new Place Riel building is expected to bring in significant revenues once it is fully operational.
“We’ve projected $90,000 in revenue for the next business year,” Hitchings said. “But the year after that we expect to see $700,000.”
The jump in revenue is due to two main factors. The first is that the USSU is in a significantly worse state this year than is usually the case because of the global financial crisis. Investments that were expected to yield returns did not, cutting into projected revenues. But the crisis is slowly abating, meaning that future years will not look so bleak.
The second reason is that Place Riel usually generates a lot of revenue by collecting rents from the businesses set up there. While the construction and renovation is going on, there are far fewer businesses to collect rent from. And once the new building is operational not only will all of the old businesses be back, but there will also be a large number of new businesses moving into the building.
Cottrell, who was at the meeting, said they expect to begin receiving rent from businesses in October 2010.
Several members of council spoke out in favour of the motion, seemingly in the hope of avoiding a lengthy debate on the subject. Councillor Sarah Wood of veterinary medicine, USSU vice-president student affairs Ben Fawcett, the Edwards School of Business’s Alecia Nagy, and USSU vice-president external affairs Chris Stoicheff were among those in favour of the increase.
Stoicheff, who had raised objections at the previous meeting, said he had been won over to the necessity of the increase. He raised concerns about the fact that some USSU-owned businesses rarely show profit. The USSU owns Browser’s, Louis’, Copy Central and XL Design.
Roger Loor of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition was one of the only councillors to speak against the motion. He mentioned the reserve funds the USSU typically has and asked about using that rather than increasing fees.
USSU president Warren Kirkland answered that there is no reserve fund now, a result of the financial crisis. He added that the “financially prudent” thing to do would be to increase student fees for next year, and to think about decreasing them in the future when the USSU’s financial situation has improved.
“My expectation, as someone with a finance degree, is that we will be in a position of surplus in following years,” Kirkland said.
The motion passed almost unanimously, with Loor noting his opposition.