Education cuts: Protest matters more than ever for Saskatchewan students

By in Opinions

In the wake of the provincial budget released in March 2017, students across the province of Saskatchewan are banding together to protest cuts to post-secondary education on Sept. 29 — and even before the day of protest, direct-action tactics are already working.

The release of the provincial budget saw funding slashed for the University of Saskatchewan by 5.6 per cent overall, with $20 million from the allocated funding set aside specifically for the College of Medicine. In effect, this would have amounted to an 11 per cent cut overall for all colleges outside the College of Medicine.

On Sept. 21, it was announced that provincial funding to the College of Medicine is being restored. The university is now facing only the 5.6 per cent cut to funding.

Student activism played a large part in the restoration of funding to post-secondary education, with the Saskatchewan Student Coalition putting some much-appreciated pressure on the Saskatchewan government to re-evaluate its stance on education cuts.

The SCC is comprised of the U of S Students’ Union, the University of Regina Students’ Union, the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students’ Association and the U of S Graduate Students’ Association. The SCC’s goal is to direct attention to the education cuts and enhance awareness about the future of Saskatchewan’s education funding.

Like the Drop Everything and Read protests organized by the Save Saskatchewan Libraries Campaign — which ended once funding was restored to Saskatchewan libraries in April 2017 — the SSC hopes to enact change by rallying around a single non-partisan issue. Funding cuts to post-secondary education is an issue that should concern all Saskatchewan citizens, not just students and university faculty, regardless of their political leanings.

Direct action and protests are often seen as the domain of radical lefties or disgruntled right-libertarians, but the issue of post-secondary education funding is one that unites all post-secondary students equally. The effect of a rally like this relies on support from students across programs and campuses — and even party lines — otherwise, it amounts to another easily dismissible instance of humanities students acting up.

Even with funding restored to the College of Medicine, students have a lot left to fight for. Cuts to post-secondary education programs like the Northern Teacher Education Program, which places teachers in northern communities, and the Saskatchewan Legislative Internship Program are limiting long-term career options for university students.

The 5.6 per cent cut to funding is also passed on to students in the form of higher tuition and fees. Students can’t afford to settle for small concessions, when there is still so much at stake.

It is for this reason that students across Saskatchewan should support the SSC, whether it’s by attending a protest, contacting their representative in the Saskatchewan Legislature or spreading the word on social media. Every bit of support counts, and it means so much more when the voices in support of funding restoration are diverse.

Solidarity is a powerful force, and by standing with our fellow students, we can affect our current situation and the future of education in Saskatchewan. Protesting can make a difference, and the reversals of cuts to the College of Medicine and Saskatchewan libraries prove this.

The most important thing we can do is stand with each other and fight back against education cuts. Protesting is for everyone, not just those who are politically inclined, and together we can reverse these near-sighted cuts to our education.

Cole Chretien

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor