03/14/2013 04:29 EDT | Updated 05/14/2013 05:12 EDT

University of Saskatchewan raises tuition; says it's not to balance budget

SASKATOON - Students at the University of Saskatchewan will have to dig deeper into their pockets in the next school year.

The university's board of governors has approved tuition increases averaging 4.5 per cent.

Tuition for an arts and science student will increase $218 to just over $5,400, but other programs — including engineering, law and medicine — will see bigger increases.

Tuition makes up 23 per cent of the university's operating budget.

The tuition increase comes as the university projects a deficit of $44.5 million by 2016 if no action is taken to save money.

But board of governors chairwoman Susan Milburn says the school hasn't raised tuition rates to balance the budget.

"We will continue to adhere to our tuition rate-setting principles of comparability to peer institutions, affordability and accessibility, and enabling quality even in difficult financial times," said Milburn.

The university's 2013-14 operating budget is to be announced in mid-May.

New tuition revenue is projected at $6 million in 2013-14. The balance of the university's operating revenue comes largely from the province.

The government has asked universities to look for ways to save money ahead of the provincial budget, which is to be tabled next Wednesday. Premier Brad Wall has already said it will be a tightened budget and the government needs to keep overall spending increases to under four per cent.