On Jan. 14, the Board of Governors announced that they would be raising tuition for undergraduate colleges 2.4 per cent in the coming year — and they did it via press release rather than address it to the student body. This means the typical arts and science student is going to be paying close to $6,000 for their classes next year. They also said that they released this information two months before they usually do during the second term, which will allow students to adequately prepare for the cost.
I went out on campus to conduct an informal survey of what students thought of the recent tuition hikes. Out of the 20 people I spoke with, only three knew about the tuition hikes — so much for adequate financial preparation. Of the 17 that didn’t know most of them, save two, did not seem to care. Their education was being paid for by their families so they did not have to worry about the costs. In fact, several of them — to my surprise — did not even know how much they paid for tuition this year.
It seems that many students at the U of S are unaware of how the other half lives. A variety of students at the U of S simply don’t have to worry about paying for their education — a rare thing amongst post-secondary students across Canada. But it also makes a sizable portion of our student body apathetic towards the struggles of our fellow students who don’t have that security. Many students are working, taking out student loans and still just barely making ends meet. They have to worry about the rising cost of food and housing — tuition is just another rising cost to worry about.
I’m reminded of the Montreal student protests of 2012, where one-third of Quebec’s post-secondary student population opposed the proposed provincial tuition hike from $2,168 to $3,793 — in fact, one-third is the more conservative value. Statistics Canada estimates that as much as half of the student population participated in the protests at it’s peak.
As the entire country watched the protests, it seems many of my fellow U of S students thought they were ridiculous. “They pay $2,000 for tuition? Tell them to protest when they pay as much as I do,” I remember a fellow student saying in a class discussion about the topic.
But that’s just the thing; the protesters successfully got their tuition hikes frozen because they went out and opposed them vocally. As our tuition rises for at least the sixth year in a row, there does not seem to be any large outcry. As I sit here and write this, the planned Public Forum on Tuition taking place in Place Riel on Feb. 5 has 77 people attending on Facebook — that’s barely 0.005 per cent of our undergraduate population.
Post-secondary education, it seems, no longer functions as a meritocracy. The common argument of people who are smart enough to attend post-secondary institutions, but can’t afford to are usually awarded grant money or scholarships is absolute bullshit. The story of people who pay for their own education having to drop out because they had to work too many hours to make ends meet while taking a full course load is the reality.
It’s also expected that students who take out student loans have to work by the board that approved their applications, which seems very counterintuitive if you think about it. Meanwhile, there are students who clearly do not belong in university, but are here because they can pay for it without scholarships.
We as a collective student body need to realise the needs of our least privileged students and speak out against our institution raising our tuition with flimsy justifications. It’s time that the U of S actually started being a meritocracy when it comes to education and not just a money grab for whoever wants to give it to them no questions asked.
Graphic: Stephanie Mah/Graphics Editor