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CMU Students Celebrate Tuition Freedom Day

In a room packed with faculty, staff, guests, and students, Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) students on November 25 paid thanks to those who each year help to make higher education possible.

In opening the University’s annual Tuition Freedom Day celebrations, CMU Student Council (CMUSC) President Ben Borne noted: “This is a day where the students and all of CMU recognize the generous hearts of our donors, and say ‘thank you.’”

“Today marks the day when we celebrate the fact that donors have provided a great contribution in order for us to continue our studies here at CMU, since our tuition fees do not cover the full costs of our education,” said CMUSC Vice President, Activities, Belinda Morales, who chaired the event organizing committee.

CMU President Gerald Gerbrandt noted that just over $13-million is spent annually under CMU’s operating budget, of which about $10.3 million is related to academic costs. Of this total, he said, students themselves contribute roughly $4.6 million or 45% of costs. “The next largest portion of about $3.6 M, or 36%, comes from the Manitoba Government. More than $2.1-million is donation money, roughly $400,000 from conferences and congregations, and $1.7 from individuals who believe in CMU and contribute their money accordingly.

Manitoba’s Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy, the Honourable Erin Selby, brought greetings from the provincial government. Administrators, students, donors, and government – all contribute to sharing the costs of education, Selby noted. “We each do our part to sustain higher education, but today is the day that we recognize that, from this day forward, the operating costs come from other sources (than tuition).” She congratulated CMU for preparing students to lead rich, full lives. “We know they will contribute to our society,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of supporting churches, Elton da Silva, executive director of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, spoke to students about the church’s reasons for investing in higher education at CMU. “There are great results that come out of having you being part of CMU, learning here, being equipped here. We will have better churches in the future because you have spent your time here.”

President Gerbrandt welcomed Katherine Wiens to speak on behalf of more than 1,800 individual donors who contribute to CMU each year.

In his introduction, Gerbrandt commented on Katherine Wiens’ long-standing connection to CMU, noting as well that her father was J.J. Thiessen, one of the people responsible for establishing one of CMU’s founding colleges, Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), in 1947.

“My father J.J. Thiessen was very involved in the college, giving counsel, time, and prayer support,” she said, describing a time when “he went to a friendly manager of the bank and asked for a loan which he promptly gave to CMBC. He repaid that in monthly instalments,” she recalled.

Many members of their extended family benefited from the higher education they received at CMU and earlier founding institutions, said Wiens. The latest family member associated with CMU spent a year with the University’s Outtatown discipleship school.

“One does not support (an institution) only for what one’s children will get, but also for those in the next generations as well. I see CMU as God’s plan for our churches at this time.”

Stephanie Heide expressed appreciation from the student body to CMU’s donor groups. “Without the support of donors, the tuition we pay would be over double what it currently is. For a lot of us, that would mean not being able to continue our education. The support of donors makes a difference – a life-changing difference – by making quality education at an accredited Christian University possible.”

“We, the students of CMU, express our deep-felt thanks to those who have contributed to our education by helping to make it affordable. It is a huge gift to us,” said Heide. “Thank you, donors.”

Released Dec. 2, 2011