SACKVILLE, N.B. – Mount Allison University’s decision to discontinue its free tuition incentive for seniors this year is drawing concern from those who had hoped to take advantage of the program.
“I am dismayed by the recent action of the “budget choppers” at Mount A in which they removed the favoured status of tuition free from senior citizens,” said Sackville resident Philip Mallory.
Mallory, a 77-year-old former school teacher who recently moved to Sackville, had applied to go to Mount Allison to take courses this coming fall. So he admits he was surprised when he received a phone call earlier this month from the university’s admissions office, followed up by written confirmation, to advise him of the change to the program.
In the letter dated June 17, Ron Byrne, vice-president of international and student affairs, stated that “beginning in September 2014, regular tuition rates will apply to all Mount Allison students . . .the seniors’ discount will no longer be offered as of the fall.”
Mallory said he was disappointed by the action taken by Mount A, which has been offering the tuition rebate to seniors for 65 and over for many years, like so many other universities across Canada.
“Universities are supposed to stand for values, so what is this saying about Mount A?” he asked. “They’re not setting a very good example.”
Byrne said last week that the discontinuation of the seniors tuition discount was a budgetary decision.
He said each year the university must create a balanced budget to ensure the ongoing stability of the university. The change to the senior tuition discount was one of a number of budget adjustments made for this coming year. Other examples are increases to tuition for domestic and international students; lab fee and fitness centre increases; as well as program and staffing adjustments.
"We realized the change to our senior tuition discount could cause concern for some seniors taking classes at Mount Allison. This is why we contacted affected individuals by telephone to alert them to the change and to answer any questions they might have as a result,” Byrne explained.
He said the phone call was followed by an email and written letter confirming the change, and to assure students of the university’s willingness to assist as needed. He said the admissions office highlighted the availability of financial assistance for those with demonstrated need, noting seniors can apply for bursaries or scholarships.
“We have created a streamlined bursary application process for seniors and will continue to work directly with them to assist with the application process,” he said.
But Mallory, who has three university degrees and has been taking post-secondary courses on and off for most of his life, said he won’t be applying for financial aid through Mount A; in fact he finds that suggestion “insulting and downright cynical.” Instead, he said he’ll carpool with a neighbor to l’Universite de Moncton this fall, where he can take classes for free and continue to further his education.
Last year, seven students took advantage of the seniors tuition discount at Mount Allison.