Eyeopening discussion

In what both sides called positive exposure, CBC was on campus Fri., Oct. 3 exploring whether post-secondary education is worth the rising costs.

At 7:15 a.m., Calgary Eyeopener host Jim Brown began a live broadcast from the MacEwan Student Centre food court. Just a small handful of students were passing by, as well as Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist, University of Calgary Vice-President External Roman Cooney, and author of Sink or Swim: How to Lose Your Degree Without Drowning in Debt Sarah Deveau. Both the university and the SU are pleased with how the event played out.

"I think it’s excellent that they’re acknowledging a need to have the views of campus life told to the community," said Gilchrist. "I think it’s a sign that [the public is] aware, they’re curious and they want to be more informed."

Cooney agreed.

"I think it’s good. I’ve talked many times about the importance of raising awareness of the bigger issues," he said, pointing to a Calgary Herald article the same day featuring the university in the context of pressure from Calgary’s growth. "The more people that know and understand the kinds of pressures we’re facing, the more they’ll support us."

This is where their agreement ended. Gilchrist focused mainly on tuition, saying the cost is far too high.

"I don’t think the money should be coming from students at all–at all," Gilchrist said after the interview, noting this sort of coverage helps bring that message to the public. "There’s such a public benefit to education. I think the public should be appreciating that and fulfilling their role in putting funding back into the system."

During the interview, Cooney turned the issue to quality, saying increasing quality is a priority that sometimes comes at the price of tuition hikes.

"As I said in the [CBC] interview, you can’t take just one issue out of the bundle and forget about everything else–and it’s a big bundle," Cooney explained afterward, pointing to rapidly rising costs in areas like textbooks and hiring quality faculty. "I think it would be disrespectful to say that students don’t have a case, but I think in fairness we need to tackle rising education costs."

CBC also played pre-recorded interviews with U of C students, most of whom said costs were too high. Gilchrist said the university isn’t taking those concerns seriously, since "they keep increasing tuition." The alternative to increases, according to Gilchrist, is the university going to the government for increased funding, which she said the university isn’t doing enough.

Cooney stressed the importance of lobbying government during the interview, and maintained the university is talking with the provincial government. He also thinks they’ve made recent progress, pointing to funding announced this summer for the Bachelor of Health Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Nurse Practitioner programs.

"They are part of the equation, they have to be, they’re our major funder," he said. "If all we do is say to the province ‘give us more money,’ we’re in the midst of a very long line of people saying the same thing So the onus is on us to make the case for education, and that’s why I’m here today."

CBC was on campus for 45 minutes, also talking to Deveau, a U of C grad, about her book on how to get through university without large amounts of debt. Deveau doesn’t think tuition costs are unreasonable, living at home during most of her schooling and graduating with only a few thousand dollars in debt.

Brown did not have time to talk about the event.

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