Students from St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick addressed Finance Minister Blaine Higgs at the pre-budget consultations in Fredericton on January 24th. Our message: tuition fees must come down. In response, Minister Higgs said students spend most of their money on alchohol and smoking and that we need to learn to live without these things. I lost a lot of respect for Mr. Higgs that night.
Students oppose any budget that will see tax cuts for corporations and the rich while increasing tuition fees for those who can least afford to pay. Minister Higgs has ignored how a tuition fee increase will negatively affect students. This year’s budget is set to make the prospect of attaining post-secondary education even more unattainable for the majority of young people in New Brunswick.
More and more jobs require a post-secondary education. When tuition fees increase, fewer students pursue post-secondary education and students are forced to leave the province after graduating to pay down mortgage sized debt loads. With a tuition increase, the New Brunswick government is going to drive away students, who could otherwise be contributing to the province upon graduation through their higher income taxes.
The average debt level of a graduating university student is almost $30,000. Is the Minister planning to pay for upcoming tax cuts – 68% of which are going to the upper 24% of the earning population – on the backs of students? This is not responsible fiscal management. St. Thomas University student Alex Green says, “Students are being forced to pay for the financial crisis of New Brunswick, which we did not cause”.
Students are challenging the Minister to seek alternate, more viable solutions to this financial crisis. Turning government debt into student debt won’t solve the problem. This burden should not be one that rests so heavily on the shoulders of the students of New Brunswick.
For more information, Facebook: Occupy Tuition.
Sarah Hunt is a first year criminology student at St. Thomas University.