HALIFAX -- The fall academic semester is going to look a lot different for students at Halifax’s Dalhousie University this year.

Not only will they be learning online, but they’ll be paying more for it, too.

On Wednesday, Deep Saini, the university’s president and vice-chancellor, sent a memo to students online indicating a three per cent tuition hike for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Everyone thought tuition was going to go down,” says Carleigh MacKenzie, an undergraduate student at Dalhousie University. “But it turns out that it did the opposite.”

“Dalhousie is raising tuition at a time when students and families are struggling the most,” adds Dalhousie law student, Leah Robertson. “I was angry.”

The memo posted to the university’s website reads in part:

“Annual tuition increases are necessary to maintain the high quality of our academic programming — this was true before the COVID-19 pandemic and is even more apparent today as we work to ensure your academic experience this fall is delivered to the highest standards,” says Saini in the statement.

“The board’s motion approved a tuition increase of up to 3 per cent, and given the investments needed in student support and online instruction — as well as to help manage the significant financial impacts of this current pandemic — Dalhousie will be implementing the full 3 per cent increase for this upcoming year.”

While some students understand the need to raise tuition, they don’t think it should have been done during a global pandemic.

“The university does reserve the right to hike tuition by three per cent, but they’re saying that it’s so they can deliver premium academic standard,” says MacKenzie. “However, if they don’t already have those resources put aside for remote learning, can you really call it premium?”

The Dalhousie Student Union says the university is not listening to the needs of students at a time when many are concerned about their finances.

Erica Seelemann, the union’s vice-president of academic and external affairs, says the COVID-19 pandemic has left many students in limbo.

“A lot of students have looked into the option of deferring or taking the year off. But a lot of them, including international students, as soon as they do this, they’re hit with their student loans,” explains Seelemann.

“Instead of just having to pay thousands of dollars up front, now they’re faced with tens of thousands of dollars they’re expected to pay back. They’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, because there’s no way out.”

The university will waive athletic and recreation fees for the fall term and the financial aid bursary will be doubled.

But some students say that’s not enough. Either way, they will be left paying more interest on a bigger student loan.

“As a taxpaying Nova Scotian, I not only pay tuition fees to Dalhousie but I also pay taxes which support the provincial grants which Dalhousie receives,” says Robertson. “As both a student and community member, I’m really frustrated that they’re proceeding with this.”