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Photo by Sylvia Lopez

U of C students protest against tuition hikes at City Hall

By Nazeefa Ahmed, August 20 2023—

On August 19, U of C students protested against tuition hikes in front of City Hall. Organized by the UCalgary Poli Students Club, the students looked to create public awareness of the rising cost of education in their second protest of the year. 

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

According to a news release to the Gauntlet, the protest is a reaction to the lack of affordability measures in the recent mandate letter to the Minister of Advanced Education. 

“Despite the UCP promising a 2 per cent cap on tuition increases if elected, the new Minister of Advanced Education Rajan Sawhney’s mandate letter did not mention making post-secondary education more affordable,” read the statement. 

The students chanted together for their right to an affordable education with signs for onlookers to read. 

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Tuition hikes have got to go,” they said. “Education is a right. That is why we have to fight. Whose future? Our future. Whose school? Our school. What do we want? Respect. When do we want it? Now.”

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

The mandate, released on July 21, did not mention tuition hikes or affordability measures that the group was initially advocating for during the provincial election in May. 

“Over the next four years, we will take clear and decisive action to grow and diversify our economy while ensuring our health, education and other core social programs are world class,” read the introduction of the letter

Protester Sheroog Kubur described how the mandate letter failed to address the rising tuition rates and develop strategies to support all students financially. 

“The letter included a lot of information about creating seats for aviation students and trying to incentivize physicians to stay in the province but we need tactical measures that impact all of the student body,” she said. “We need funding to go towards school so we all aren’t paying these absolutely ludicrous tuition rates that have only been going up since 2019.”

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

Since 2020, tuition has increased up to 33 per cent and funding towards post-secondary education has been cut up to $750 million.

Protester Wajih Ahmed was not originally part of the organization but joined the crowd to advocate for international students as well as his community. 

“My four year degree is cheaper than one year of international tuition,” he said. “Especially with the rising housing prices and other costs, its just impossible for my friends and the people I care about to afford school, food and rent.”

Protester Helen Huai pointed to the lack of change between the provincial election and now, given that affordable tuition was in both parties’ campaigns.

“We saw both parties coming up to the election promising caps on tuition and an end to the hikes,” she said. “Since the UCP has been re-elected, there has been no mention in their mandates about tuition and it is set to go up again this fall.”

“No one likes paying more, so we are on the same page. The problem right now is students are not organizing and getting active but nothing is going to change if we just complain about it and don’t do anything,” she continued. 

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

Domestic fourth-year student Jayden Tran describes how his tuition increased rapidly since 2020. He references the 2012 Quebec student protests against a 75 per cent tuition hike and hopes that students at the U of C will organize to bring the issue to the provincial government’s decisions. 

“At first it was reasonable around $5000, but I just checked my tuition for this year and it has gone up to $11,000,” he said. “With the rising costs, I do want to see some spirit from the students at the U of C. The Montreal strikes, although they were disruptive, were very effective. Now, they get the luxury of lower tuition — unlike us.”

Photo by Sylvia Lopez

More information about future protests and advocacy can be found on the UCalgary Poli Students’ Instagram profile.

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