Tuition fees are not a treat: Students prepare for day of action

(Photo: Nick Frew)

(Photo: Nick Frew)

Wednesday, Nov. 2 will see students across Canada going all-out for free and accessible post-secondary education.

According to Charlotte Kiddell, chairperson with the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), at the CFS general meeting in June 2016 students across Canada voted to have a national day of action, the purpose of which is to send a message to the provincial and federal governments, saying:

“We are in a state of crises. In post-secondary education, every day, more and more students are denied access to our post-secondary institutions, and it is time for us to achieve education justice, it’s time for us to achieve universal access to education.”

Kiddell added that, on Nov. 2, students in 24 Canadian cities will be involved with the movement.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just for Canadian students, but students studying in Canada.

“We are talking about it from an angle of education justice,” Kiddell explained. “We’re talking about what groups of students are disproportionately impacted by our current system of highly inaccessible post-secondary education.”

The goal for Nov. 2, according to Kiddell, is to have the provincial and federal governments come together and put a plan in motion for a “fully, publicly-funded post-secondary education system in Canada.”

“We’ve done a lot of research already that supports why and how free education is possible,” she said. “[Canada has] the money; it’s time for our decision makers to start to make this a priority.”

Last Wednesday, the Kings’ Students’ Union (KSU) held their final planning meeting for Nov. 2 to discuss how to generate hype and a crowd for the event. Topics of discussion included a possible banner drop on the University of King’s College campus, how to get students in the Foundation Year Programme (FYP) pumped up and in attendance, ways to persuade students to show up, as well as logistics – such as how to dress and how attendees will be fed.

Marie Koros – a second-year student at the University of King’s College who has been involved with the KSU as a volunteer – attended the meeting and will be protesting on Wednesday.

Koros sees tuition as a barrier that stops people from getting post-secondary education.

“Speaking for myself, I’m here by virtue of who my parents are and the work that they’ve done,” she said. “Without that background, I wouldn’t be able to afford the program that I’m currently in here at King’s.

“I know people who would want to be here, who can’t be here. Education is something that should be accessible to everyone. It’s a public good and ought to be recognized as such, and ought to be valued as such.”

In terms of results of the protest, Koros has two sets of expectations: realistic and unrealistic.

“Unrealistic expectations would be Trudeau recognizing that he has titled himself the Youth Minister, and is representing a generation whose values are not completely in line with what he believes they are, or what it seems he believes they are… I think there’s disparities with what he’s saying and with what is being done. So having the action recognized by Trudeau would be great.”

“In terms of realistic expectations, I’d love to see a bunch of community involvement from King’s. I think our goal is about 300 people from King’s – I think that is totally doable, we have a very engaged community here.”

Koros added that she’s hoping for some community involvement from outside of the university as well.

However, regardless of expectations, she sees a bigger picture at play with this movement.

“If we have people who are educated, who are passionate about what they study and who haven’t been blocked from the education – because of financial barriers – we will have a stronger and richer society.”

The University of King’s College has heard and reacted the students’ pleas. On Oct. 13, the university’s board of governors voted against a $1,000 FYP tuition hike, which – according to a media release put out by the KSU – made it the only university to reject the tuition reset.