The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

U of S students rally to make post-secondary more affordable

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U of S students rally outside of the Administration Building on Feb. 27, 2020. | Kristine Jones A. del Socorro

Students of the University of Saskatchewan rallied on Feb. 27 in an effort to push the provin­cial government to help make post-secondary more affordable for everyone.

Despite the chilly weather, around 50 students stood to­gether in the U of S Bowl, hold­ing signs and listening intently as each speaker took turns ex­plaining the magnitude of the situation.

“We should be kept front of mind and top of the cheques to sign and not treated as an after­thought,” said Jamie Bell, the U of S Students’ Union vice-presi­dent operations and finance.

The USSU planned and led the rally as a way to build mo­mentum behind their six calls to action for the Government of Saskatchewan ahead of the new provincial budget.

These calls surround the is­sue of funding for students and the university, and were first released by the union in De­cember 2019. At the rally, USSU President Regan Ratt-Misponas said that the demands were rea­sonable for the provincial gov­ernment to address in a timely manner.

“These six points are very small changes that we are hop­ing that the Government of Saskatchewan will implement in this next provincial budget,” Ratt-Misponas said. “And these six points add to the larger pic­ture of ensuring that post-sec­ondary education is affordable and accessible for the students today and the students to come.”

Miguel Dela Peña, a third-year English honours student who attended the rally, says tui­tion is a big concern for him and most university students.

“It’s discouraging, to say the least. By the time I finish my undergrad, [tuition will] already have gone up quite a bit from to­day and I already think it’s a lot right now,” Dela Peña said. “I’m doing a master’s so I can get a better chance at a better job to pay off student debt, but now it just seems like it’s gonna bury me deeper.”

One of the calls to action by the USSU is for the province to offer scholarships, grants and bursaries for international stu­dents. Abhineet Goswami, the University Students’ Council in­ternational students’ representa­tive, voiced his frustrations with how the international students’ tuition differential is a barrier for his and his peers’ success.

“I am hundreds of miles apart from my home, paying [more than] twice the amount of [do­mestic] tuition. I have no other choice because I have to survive here. This is not just my story. This is the story of all interna­tional students,” Goswami said.

“The university uses fan­cy words like “international­ization,” “diversity,” “equality,” “inclusiveness,” but [when we] come here and do a reality check, [they] seem to be wrong.”

The rally came shortly after the university’s proposed hikes to graduate tuition, still to be approved by the Board of Gov­ernors on March 23. The pro­posed increases would mean that graduate students’ tuition would go up 50 per cent or more in the next five years. U of S pro­fessor Claire Card, one of the speakers at the rally, says that students are frustrated about the lack of consultation for these big tuition increases.

“What we’ve experienced is [that] consultation seems to take the form of announce­ments. We aren’t really consult­ed at all,” Card said. “Let’s be real that enormous debt is a discour­agement [from] attending uni­versity. Right now, all paths lead to banks and loans.”

The USSU followed up on the rally’s requests during their conversation with Minister of Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor during the University Students’ Council meeting later on the same day. While the minister seemed re­ceptive to the students’ calls to action, she made no promises.

Ratt-Misponas emphasizes that for the province’s growth plans to succeed, they will need a stronger commitment to edu­cation affordability.

“The province of Saskatche­wan is now working on growth and to ensure growth, this is the place that we need to start,” Ratt-Misponas said. “It starts with students.”

Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro

Photo: Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro

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