By Sports and Lifestyle Editor Cole Schisler
Across the country, costs of tuition have been steadily rising, year after year. According to a report published by Statistic Canada, the average Canadian will pay $6,373 for tuition in the 2016/17 year, a 2.8 percent increase since the 2015/16 year.
In British Columbia, the cost of tuition has increased 2.5 percent. BC students will pay $5,534 on average for tuition. Simka Marshall, chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS), believes that there needs to be a reduction in tuition fees.
“There is a very limited amount of financial aid available to BC students,” Marshall says. “Students in BC are graduating with an average of $34K in debt. We need a comprehensive grants program for students in BC, because currently, there is none.”
Marshall says that funding for post-secondary institutions has been cut consistently for the past 15 years. At Vancouver Island University, less than 50 percent of the budget comes from government funding. The rest of the budget is made up of tuition and student fees.
The BCFS has been calling on the provincial government to reinstate funding for Adult Basic Education, and for student loans to be interest free. In the BC Liberals Balanced Budget 2017, it was announced that there will be a reduction in interest rates on student loans. Despite the reduction, the threat of student loans still looms over students.
“If I do stay in school for longer, I might get worried because tuition keeps getting higher and higher,” says Ernest Dushime, a student studying social work at VIU. “I think lots of students have a hard time with their loans. I’m very optimistic right now, but what if I don’t get that job when I finish my education? Most of my classmates are worried and are always talking about how much schooling they have to take.”
Dushime says that he believes his education has been worth the financial cost, however he does believe that the cost of post-secondary education should be reduced so that it is more fair for all students.
Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates agrees with Dushime. In several articles, Usher has detailed that there is a problem with the way student aid is distributed, especially in BC. He says that student aid should be better targeted to those who need it.
“The remission program in BC is ludicrous because they don’t even tell you what the admission criteria is,” says Usher. “We give a lot of money through tax credits, which historically has been a way to get money to students easily, without increasing spending. People are starting to come to the realization that it’s ridiculous. The federal government eliminated half of their credits last year, and Ontario got rid of all of their tax credits. So instead of loaning the money and forgiving it, they’re giving grants up front.”
Despite the rise in tuition, Usher says that students in Canada are getting a good deal on their education. Much like the position of the BCFS, he believes that provincial governments can do more to provide students with financial assistance.
The cost of tuition is expected to continue rising in the foreseeable future, however, students in BC will have an opportunity for change in the upcoming May 9 provincial election. The BCFS is currently promoting their Students Are Voting campaign on campuses across BC, and encourages students to educate themselves on party policies.
While the outcome of the election is uncertain, what remains certain is students in BC will be looking for improved aid from whichever party forms government.
Cole is a second-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in creative writing, minoring in political science. He has an interest in all things exciting, mundane, or otherwise. He hopes to one day become an author, actor, comedian, editor, and rapper, while moonlighting as an astronaut.