Negotiations have begun around a new funding agreement between the province and Nova Scotia’s universities. The current three-year memorandum of understanding is set to expire on March 31, the end of the fiscal year. The current memorandum outlines a number of commitments by the government and the institutions. For example, it capped most tuition-fee increases at 3.9 per cent in the first two years of the agreement and froze tuition for all students at Nova Scotian universities in the final year. Tuition was further reduced by $500 for all Nova Scotian students attending Nova Scotian universities. “The previous memorandum of understanding has been a success and offers a framework for the current negotiations,” said Minister of Education Karen Casey. “This government is committed to a well-educated, competitive workforce. “We have also pledged to lower tuition to the national average by 2010. We look forward to a new memorandum and how it can contribute to that.” A steering committee, with universities, students and government representatives, will meet before Christmas. A new deal is expected by spring. More than 42,000 students attend university in Nova Scotia. The province’s 11 universities are a $1-billion industry, providing 7,500 direct high-quality, well-paying jobs, and 17,500 indirect jobs.