To the editor: Marching for student debt

To the Editor :

It has been about 40 years since a few students from UNB and STU marched to King Street to occupy the Centennial Building.

At the time, they were lobbying theprovincial government to keep tuition fees at around $700 dollars a year, inspired by Newfoundland’s $0 tuition. Today, with New Brunswick students facing the second highest tuition rates in the country, we at UNB and STU need to ask ourselves once again whether the time has come to take to the streets.

The upcoming provincial budget, set to drop on March 22, 2011, will be something of a test for all those who care about education. With the government planning to make cuts across the public sector, it is crucial that those who will be affected by these measures make their voices heard.

The current agreement on funding for universities is set to expire and the tuition freeze will thaw as the snow melts and the river rises. As it stands, the government has been vague about its commitment to post-secondary education. Any cuts will have huge consequences for students, faculty and staff at all New Brunswick universities. If we do not act now and speak out, the government will have no reason not to lift restrictions on tuition, a move that could affect tuition fees for the next four years.

Students are not the only ones who benefit from a publicly funded post-secondary education system. Cuts to funding will have two clear consequences for everyone in the province. First, when tuition fees go up, access goes down, and fewer people will have the opportunity to pursue a degree. If we want to encourage active participation in our democracy, we need an education system that is open to all, regardless of income. Furthermore, Students with high debt loads are far more likely to leave the province when they graduate to find higher paying jobs elsewhere. How can we expect skilled professionals such as family doctors to come to New Brunswick and fill the labour gap when we can’t even keep our own at home? When our educated young people leave the province, it hurts our economy. The highest percentage of our provincial revenue comes from personal income taxes, and if we allow the tax base to be eroded, many social services that we now take for granted will suffer.

Students in New Brunswick pay the second highest tuition fees on average in the country, and our student debt problem is out of control. In the Maritimes, the average undergraduate leaves school $37,000 in debt, often at a very young age. As the government prepares to release details of this year’s budget, students and their families are calling on our elected representatives to defend public education by providing more funding to our institutions. On March 1, students will take to the streets to reject these cuts and demand a better deal for New Brunswick. We encourage you to come out in defense of a public education.

Find more information at www.march1wemarch.wordpress.com.

Mary-Dan Johnston and Adam Melanson
Have your say.Email us at talkback@theaq.net

 

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