Tuition: a rock and a hard place

KSU continues to fight for tuition reduction

(Photo: Kristen Thompson)

(Photo: Kristen Thompson)

“I’m choosing between paying for books and paying for groceries,” reads a pale yellow poster stuck to the wall of the Wardroom.

“High tuition fees mean $20,000 of debt by 20 years old” reads another, this time bright red.

These messages are accompanied by 71 other signs written by students during a demonstration organized by the King’s Student Union (KSU) on Sep. 18.

After interacting with a display in the front hall of the A&A building, students were invited to join the discussion on what high tuition fees mean to them. The posters hang in rows in the campus bar, like bricks, creating a metaphorical wall of student debt.

“The point of the action was to address the fact that students are paying an exorbitant amount of tuition fees at King’s and in Nova Scotia,” says Marie Dolcetti Koros, the external vice-president of the KSU.

“Students are paying too much to be here and we are calling for a reduction of tuition fees by the university president.”

This year at King’s, tuition went up by approximately three per cent for every student. This means King’s students are paying the fourth-highest tuition in the province, according to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.

On average, students at Nova Scotia universities are paying $7,567 in tuition fees for arts programs this academic year. King’s students will pay $7,416.

The KSU’s demonstration was organized as a part of the ongoing Fight the Fees initiative that they participate in as a member organization of the Canadian Federation of Students.

William Lahey, the President of King’s, says that he is open to a continuing dialogue with the KSU on this issue.

“As I have said many times before I want the conversation with the KSU and students generally to continue…” says Lahey. “On the other hand, the university’s financial situation is such that it makes it very difficult to see how we could reduce tuition in the near future.”

Currently, King’s is in a financial deficit, meaning that the university has more expenses than it has revenue.

“Unless we make a number of different changes, we’re going to have a deficit in the next number of years, roughly speaking, certainly over a million dollars. And that’s not sustainable, that’s just not something the university can continue to absorb,” says Lahey.  “And so that makes it very, very difficult to think how we could reduce tuition revenue in the short term.”

Both Lahey and Dolcetti Koros acknowledge that this is an issue that disproportionately affects students who come from marginalized groups.

“I have a lot of sympathy for students who talk to me about how difficult the high cost of tuition is for them,” says Lahey. “I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that it prevents us from being the university of choice for students from diverse backgrounds.”

“A reduction in tuition fees would make King’s tuition more accessible to all students of all backgrounds,” says Dolcetti Koros.

But Lahey doesn’t see how it can be economically sustainable for the university to reduce tuition in the near future.

“If the KSU could tell me how we could do that and at the same reduce and hopefully eliminate our deficit that would be helpful.”

Dolcetti Koros says the fight from the KSU for lower costs is not over.

“We will continue to take action until these fees are reduced up front.”