Make university accessible to all

Ella Henry - From College Hill to Parliament Hill (Tom Bateman/AQ)

This past week hasn’t been good for students across the country.

Tuition fees are going up in Nova Scotia while university budgets are being cut.

The Nova Scotia government announced tuition fee increases of three per cent (or more in professional programs and for international students). And that three per cent cap on tuition fee increases is only in place for this year, meaning fees will probably rise even more next year. Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government is also going to cut university funding by three per cent.

What does this mean? Increased class sizes, more underpaid part-time professors, cuts to student services, extra fees, more students taking on second and third jobs to pay for school – sound familiar yet?

Our tuition fees for next year have yet to be announced – but if last year is any indication, New Brunswick is taking its cues from Nova Scotia when it comes to tuition fees.

In Ontario, students found out that most won’t actually be eligible for the 30 per cent reduction in tuition fees promised during an election.

Reducing tuition fees by 30 per cent would be pretty great. It made a good sound bite during the election, but it doesn’t look like the Ontario government ever had any intention of fulfilling this promise.

Maybe the minister of training, colleges and universities in Ontario needs to go back and redo Grade 5 math, because the only place $1,600 is 30 per cent of $6,640 is in his head (for my fellow liberal arts students, $1,600 is 24 per cent of $6,640).

Besides, there are so many conditions attached to the grant that it looks like the majority of students won’t be eligible.

Like the Timely Completion Benefit here in New Brunswick, it sounds good if you don’t read the fine print. It seems that ministers of post-secondary education have decided that making the majority of students who need financial assistance ineligible for funding is a great way to cut costs.

And in Attawapiskat, the government-appointed manager is playing politics with students’ education and refusing to release money to pay teachers’ salaries.

Over a decade after the school in Attawapiskat was closed due to high levels of toxins that had been making students sick for years, the federal government still hasn’t found the drive to build a new school.

Even years after students launched a nation-wide campaign to get a new school built, classes are still held in temporary portables. Can you imagine that happening in any non-Aboriginal community in Canada?

The federal government claims they brought in a third-party manager because Attawapiskat has mismanaged money. Yet, government funding for infrastructure and social services per capita is less than half that of a city like Toronto. And new audits indicate that Ottawa, not Attawapiskat, has mismanaged infrastructure funds destined for reserves.

If we don’t push for change, we’re likely to end up with an education system that resembles the one we had a hundred years ago – where universities were only open to the rich.

We can stop these attacks on education in New Brunswick and around the country, but we have to start now.