By Cristina Paolozzi, January 24 2020—
The U of C’s plan to increase tuition for its undergraduate students was definitely a decision I thought had a pretty obvious choice. Protests from the student population and even a campaign organized by the Students’ Union’s executive team attempted to prevent a possible decision being made regarding how much students would be paying for their post-secondary education. I really don’t know any student on campus who actively wanted to pay more for school, despite provost Dru Marshall stating that she had received feedback from students who were “OK with the tuition increase.” Yeah… sure.
However, the decision to increase tuition along with other student fees has proven that the biggest population of individuals who would be affected by this decision don’t actually matter. The students in university are the last demographic the university administration is concerned about. The government is actively pursuing students — who already experience high amounts of debt — for money. The message of this government, and frankly this administration, is clear — higher education is not valued.
The decision, however, is also striking as only five of the 21 board members voted against tuition increases. All of the town halls and protests and barnstorms and information sessions — many of which were attended or hosted by university admins — didn’t actually mean anything, other than allowing the right faces to be seen in the right places at the right time. Over the course of the last provincial election, and considering the information that was given with regard to the budget, I have been constantly uplifted and hopeful with students’ response, looking to young people who are engaged and determined. I have also constantly been let down by government officials and university representatives who claim to care for student needs, but disregard the impact that increased tuition will have.
The decision that young people make to attend university is never an easy one, and much of that has to do with the cost of receiving an education. Post-secondary education allows individuals to be challenged in their beliefs and to gain new experiences that help shape them and their perspectives of the world. To raise tuition — especially for new students — is to devalue young people in this province and to deny them the chance at learning more about themselves and the world.
Some good news, however, is that the university will inject 15 per cent of the income from the extra revenue of the tuition and fee increases into financial aid such as bursaries for students. As well, the funding towards mental health services won’t be cut. At least we’ll be able to seek mental health services to work through the stress and frustration we may have as a result of the tuition increase. Gee, thanks.