Approximately 50 students gathered in the lower courtyard of St. Thomas University (STU) on Nov. 24 to say that education is a right and that they want to see tuition go down and not up.
The rally, organized by the student group, Unite!, coincided with actions in London, UK, where students are taking to the streets in the tens of thousands. They are protesting Britain’s suggestions of austerity measures of cutting social services, tripling tuition fees and slashing funding to post-secondary education.
According to Mary-Dan Johnston, the VP Administration of the STU Students’ Union, “students at St. Thomas University have been growing a movement that questions the shift of the financial burden of the university from the state to the student.”
The O’Neill report on post-secondary education in Nova Scotia recommended that tuition fees should be deregulated, a move that could result in average tuition fees in Nova Scotia exceeding $11,000 within five years.
Students in New Brunswick are concerned about the possibility of funding cuts to education in New Brunswick similar to those being proposed in the UK and Nova Scotia. The provincial government of New Brunswick has committed to negotiating multi-year funding agreements with universities. Ella Henry, President of the STU Students’ Union says “the government’s refusal to commit to continuing the tuition freeze makes this agreement sound more like a multi-year tuition fee increase agreement”.
Unite! believes that tuition and skyrocketing tuition are barriers to receiving an education. They say deregulated tuition fees would discourage students from taking arts degrees and that it would change the demographics of the university to a place where only children of the elite class could afford to attend university.
According to Terry Gibbs and Garry Leech in their book, The Failure of Global Capitalism: From Cape Breton to Colombia and Beyond, “the neoliberal strategy being applied to public health care is also undermining Canada’s post-secondary education system. Canadians attending university are finding that–even without privatization–federal cuts in funding have made the cost of obtaining a post-secondary education increasingly expensive.”
Gibbs and Leech, university lecturers at Cape Breton University, point out that the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a right-wing think tank based in Halifax, not only recommends privatizing all universities in Atlantic Canada, they also call for the doubling of tuition fees.
Christa Blizzard with Unite! ended the rally by encouraging students to come out to their meetings to help build a student movement at STU. Unite! meets at 4:00 pm on Mondays in James Dunn Hall at St. Thomas University.
Tracy Glynn is a writer and editor with the NB Media Co-op.