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Students protest against tuition hikes at SU organized Alberta Student Day of Action

By Julieanne Acosta, March 27 2023

The Students’ Union (SU) at the University of Calgary hosted a protest for Alberta Student Day of Action today to stand up against tuition increases, the cancelled student jobs program and the lack of mental health support on campus. 

Earlier this semester, the U of C announced the new tuition and fee rates that will begin on May 1 of this year. Domestic undergraduate students will see a 5.5 per cent increase with the exception of nursing undergraduate students who will see an eight per cent increase. 

International undergraduate students can expect to see a 10 per cent increase with the exception of new engineering students who will see an eight per cent increase and foreign-trained lawyer program students who will see a 5.5 per cent increase. International students who started the engineering program in 2022 to 2023 will see a two per cent increase. 

With a provincial election around the corner, and other groups protesting on campus today, students rallied in Mac Hall to have their voices heard and to show provincial elected officials that student votes and voices matter. 

“Not only have students had to navigate the pandemic and online learning, but we’ve also had to deal with massive increases to the cost for education,” said SU President Nicole Schmidt. “You’re getting far less bang for your buck as post-secondary students — you’re getting fewer advisors, worse wellness services, buildings that are continuing to crumble and pipes that are continuing to burst.” 

The SU noted that since 2019 students have seen at least a 33 per cent increase in the cost of tuition at the same time that many Calgarians have faced a rise in the cost of living. 

“You told us last year that one in five of you may drop out because you couldn’t afford tuition. You told us that two out of every three of you are facing a moderate to extreme strain on your finances,” said Schmidt. “We took that to heart and we pushed the government to implement student financial relief. The problem is that the financial relief that they announced is weak and ineffective and many of us aren’t eligible for it.” 

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

Although the province capped tuition increases at two per cent earlier this year, Mateusz Salmassi, SU’s vice-president external called out the fact that mandatory fees continued to rise. 

“Mandatory fees are just tuition by another name. Right now with this tuition cap, and not enough other supports, no additional funding and without proper regulation on our universities, they’re going to jack up our fees to make up for that two per cent cap. The cap is meaningless without addressing the mandatory fee issue at the same time,” said Salmassi. 

This year, the SU had Courtney Walcott — Ward 8 city councillor — speak to students about the power their voices have and encourage them to fight back. 

“Before I was a city councillor, I was a high school teacher. I think every single student that I had in the classroom didn’t realize how powerful their voice was. They were taught so often that their voice was not something that could contribute to change in every single way — power is in the collection of voices that stand together,” said Walcott. “The way our system is structured, every election time an opportunity opens up and you are given the power to share your voice.” 

The SU has launched its May provincial election student Get Out The Vote campaign where students can pledge to vote. The SU has also organized a Q & A event with opposition leader, Rachel Notley on April 5 at 5 p.m. Students can RSVP here

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