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Monday, May 21, 2018

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Because we have been waiting for you for a decade

Edumacation

Aristimacratic Social Club

The doubling of post-secondary education fees in British Columbia over the past three years has turned an already exclusive opportunity into a virtual aristocratic social club. When Gordon Campbell and his Liberal flunkies lifted the six-year freeze on university and college tuition fees it raised the average tuition in the province from $2,465 in 2001 to $4,735 today, hurting those that have the least, the most.

“It’s definitely decreased access, particularly for students from middle and low income backgrounds,” says Lisa MacLeod, BC chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students. “We’re hearing from a lot of students that they’re taking on part-time or even full-time work to cover costs. Many have reported they’ve had to take out student loans where they didn’t have to before and a lot of students say they are taking longer to graduate because they can’t afford to pay the full cost of the full semester anymore.”

During the years of the NDP tuition freeze, BC enjoyed the second-lowest fees in the country. Campbell understood the popularity of affordable post-secondary education and campaigned during the 2001 election on maintaining the freeze. In his New Era election document Campbell proclaimed: “Education is our top priority, because it’s the key to any healthy, prosperous society.” But when he came to power, Campbell dumped his promise, deregulated tuition and at the same time froze spending on education. The result has been the largest tuition hike in the country and the disturbing emergence of private companies in public education.

The Liberals argue that the tuition freeze was unsustainable and that while fees have soared in BC, they are still only fourth highest in the country. The Liberals said the schools would be best suited to fix their own prices since they understand their costs and their students better than the province. Aside from ignoring the importance of creating equal opportunities to such a vital resource, Campbell’s position neglects the fact that maintaining low tuition fees would act as a strong catalyst for the economy.

“I think it’s just a question of priorities,” says Dileep Athaidem, secretary treasurer of the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of BC and NDP candidate for Delta South. “The payback for the investment in post-secondary education is multifold. You’re not only helping the individual student to obtain their degree and to be successful, but society as a whole benefits from the dividends of having a more educated citizen.”

The Liberals have also turned their own argument on its head by recently announcing that it will re-regulate tuition fees by tying them to inflation. That means tuition will only go up roughly $100 a year–but only if they keep their promise. The move was widely seen as an election ploy to neutralize the NDP which is running on a promise to reintroduce the freeze. However, the NDP’s position is hardly a bold one. After a 100 per cent tuition hike over three years, freezing fees isn’t going to have much of an impact since the damage has already been done. Student groups say they would like to see a tuition fee roll back, but Athaidem says the NDP can’t make promises it might not be able to keep.
But perhaps the biggest legacy from the Liberal term will be the privatization of post-secondary education. Along with introducing two private-for-profit schools to BC the spending freeze has also meant that public colleges and universities have looked to corporations to fill the funding void.

“They’re happening very much under the radar right now and that, I think, is a major risk to the future of public education in BC,” says Chris Giacomantonio, student society president at Simon Fraser University.

Private companies have gotten their names on more buildings and scholarships and have more of an influence on the shape of public education. Combine privatization with the tuition hikes and you get a good idea of where post-secondary education in the province is heading. If you’ve got the cash, then there’s nothing to worry about. But for most people, the only way they’ll soon be able to get into a university is if they can cut the grass.

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