Tuition is not the only choice

By Annalea Sordi

Wake up and smell the stench of tuition! For the 11th consecutive year you can bet your money (or what little you have left of it) that the Board of Governors will vote in favour of raising tuition. This could mean an increase of big money–$250 per year, give or take. That’s a month’s rent for many of us.

You might recall the Students’ Union, along with a variety of student organizations, campaigned against raising tuition last year based on the fact that the university administration had a surplus of $41 million in 1997 and $76 million in 1998. Despite the fact that the SU used the university’s accountants to compile these figures, and over 2,000 students demonstrated outside the BoG meeting, and hundreds camped out protesting tuition hikes for three consecutive nights, tuition was still raised 80 per cent of the maximum allowable or $210 of your blood, sweat and tears.

The average debt of Alberta graduates currently sits at $17,030, thus sentencing students to a lifetime of fiscal servitude. When interest is added to the principle, you can tack on an additional 30-40 per cent.
Many individuals get better interest rates for cars and mortgages than students get when paying back their loans. In addition, last year over 800 people accessed the university food bank, 40 per cent of whom were children (i.e. the dependents of students), while one in five were graduate students. All this in the wealthiest province, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and, of course, one of the lowest minimum wages. How are students expected to afford this?

In light of this financial threat, we are appealing to you, the students to get involved in a united fight against tuition increases. We would furthermore like to challenge you to question the necessity of tuition itself. There are a great many European countries, both east and west, that have no tuition at all, such as Norway, Sweden Croatia, and Germany. You can bet that many of their facilities rival ours too! Don’t believe the hype–there’s lots of money for education. Education should not only be available to the privileged. Limited access to knowledge equals limited opportunities which in itself is a great disservice to humanity. Consider these feasible alternatives:

1. Tuition Abolition: Tuition is unnecessary and forces many students into debt. Most of the world’s developed nations up until very recently have offered tuition-free post-secondary education to their citizens. Many continue to do so today. It is an issue of priorities, not economics. Impoverished nations like Mexico still offer fully financed education to their people. Certainly Canada, one of the world’s wealthiest, can afford to do so as well.

2. Grants not Loans: Tuition is not the sole economic concern of students today. Obtaining a degree from a Post Secondary Institution is a job unto itself. Students should not have to work a double day just to put food on the table. Grants must be available to cover these expenses.

3. Elimination of Student Debt: Debt is a strong force for social control. With a massive student debt your life’s option’s are limited the moment you leave school. Students who are burdened with high loans are often restricted from continuing their studies. For these reasons and many more, students are forced to "fall in line" or pay the price.

4. Democratize University Administration: The University should be directly accountable to the students, faculty and support staff. These groups should have direct control over the administrative affairs of the University. There is nothing the administration does that should be beyond the grasp of student, faculty and support staff capabilities.

5. End Corporate Influence on Campus: Universities should be enclaves of free thought and this principle is placed in jeopardy when large corporations are able to earmark funds to certain departments while others fall to the wayside–look at Scurfield Hall vs. the Social Science building.

This is our campus and only we can take it back! Stop by the SU office, MSC 251, and pick up student poverty and tuition awareness postcards, specially designed for the provincial government. Most importantly, come out on Fri., Feb. 4 at 7:30a.m. in the north courtyard of MacHall to speak out against tuition increases.

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