Students in province beginning to react to the rising tuition fees

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 Every year, it appears the cost of post-secondary education is getting higher, and now it is apparent it has surpassed income and inflation. As if the worry of essay deadlines and mid-terms/finals were not enough for students.

 According to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled “Eduflation and the High Cost of Learning,” there has been a 6.2 per cent annual increase of average tuition and compulsory fees for undergraduates in Canada from 1990 to the present, which is three times the rate of inflation.

 “Skyrocketing tuition fees do play a significant role in deciding whether or not to pursue a degree, particularly among students from low-income families,” the study warns.

In the study, Alberta has a tough position, having the second highest average tuition cost at $7,061, beaten only by a slight margin by Ontario’s $7,513 average. Our province’s tuition average has been above the national average since the 1993-94 school year, a trend that “accelerated in 2003-04.” With the recent protests over the tuition hikes in Quebec, Albertans are beginning to take notice of the topic.

 Life in post-secondary

 “I find (the rising tuition fees) not only ridiculous, but unacceptable, “ complains Randy Churchill, a 21-year-old science major at the University of Calgary. “It’s hard enough to scrape up enough money to pay tuition without needing to go to the bank.”

Churchill points out several issues on campus that have escalated his frustration, including professors who are hard to understand, lesson plans that are unorganized and messy handwriting.

 “Overcrowding on (the U of C) campus is also an issue; if there are so many students here, why do we all need to pay a small fortune? If I’m paying top dollar, I expect top quality.”

 One of the big threats identified in the “Eduflation” study is tuition fees surpassing the rate of income, with many post-secondary students who once depended on jobs to pay for their studies now find themselves looking to their parents for help.

 “This puts an incredible strain on them,” Churchill explains, “And I believe my father has had to put off his retirement until I get my B.Sc. Not only does it drain them, but it also makes me feel like a leech, and I hate it.”

 Despite an apparent apathy of those who will attend school after him, Churchill does admit that the legacy the tuition hikes will have a drastic impact on further generations.

Tuition ChartIllustration By Jonah Petruic

 Looking to the future

 Lower income families are the hardest affected by the tuition hikes, and their concern and frustration seems to be showing.

 “How can kids fresh out of high school be expected to afford this if they don’t get a  scholarship or have parents who can pay?” says Tara Slater, 19, from Edmonton. Slater, who graduated from Jasper Place High School two years ago, has spent her transition period between upgrading and working a full-time job to save for schooling.

 “I’m one of the kids whose parents can barely afford their homes, let alone the $13,166 I’m going to need for my two years at NAIT.”

 However, not everyone interviewed is stressing over the new findings, some students like McKenna Levitt, a Grade 12 student from Lord Beaverbrook High School, see it as understandable.

 “In order for post-secondary facilities to continue thriving and supporting bigger number, they must receive an appropriate amount of money,” says McKenna Levitt, “without the funds, they cannot efficiently support the thousands of kids that come in and out every semester. Anybody is capable of making things work for themselves if they just make a few phone calls and research the situation properly.”

 Despite Levitt’s enthusiasm, Slater feels there is more the government should be doing to solve the issue, expressing her wish for more spending on education

“It would cost students a lot less and maybe we would have more highly educated people in this country,” Slater says, “The general population keeps getting more and more stupid and a part of that is they just can’t afford to educate themselves.”

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