by Jarrett Crowe
Students in Regina are calling upon the federal and provincial governments to reduce university tuition fees and provide more funding for Aboriginal post-secondary students.
On February 1st, 2012, Students at the University of Regina (U of R) and First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) took part in a National Day of Action, a student movement in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
Marching through the U of R campus, students chanted “education is a right, we will not give up the fight,” and “cut the fees, not the cheese.” FNUniv Students Association Regina campus president Cadmus Delorme led the march. “We stand here today united. We’re asking the government of Canada to lower tuition for all people that want to go to university. And we also stand here to send a strong message to the federal government that post-secondary education is, and always will be, a treaty right to education for First Nations people,” he said.
Average tuition fees for a full time student have increased from $1,714 in 1991-92 to $5,366 in 2011-12, according to Statistics Canada. Kent Peterson, U of R Students Union (URSU) president and Saskatchewan Representative for the CFS believes lowering tuition will help with the growing rate of student debt. Currently, the national student debt through Canada Student Loans program is estimated to be over $14 billion.
“Anyone who takes out a student loan will end up paying 30 per cent more for their education than those who can afford to pay for it up front,” said Peterson. “In Saskatchewan, tuition fees have increased 200 per cent in the last two decades.”
The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) is administered by Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada (ANDC) and provides funding for eligible First Nations and Inuit students to attend post-secondary institutions. The program has been capped at a two per cent annual growth, leaving thousands of students unable to attend post-secondary institutions as tuition fees further increase across the country.
Delorme does not agree with the government that the PSSSP is a social policy. “To First Nations people, it is a treaty right to education. During the signing of (Treaty 4) in 1874, when the signatory chief touched the pen, they agreed their kids will go to school and become educated so they could contribute to the economy. Now today the government only indicates only up to Grade 12 as treaty right to education, and anything above it as a program,” he said.
“In Saskatchewan alone last year, 1,000 people were denied funding. It’s a very important issue for not only this country but the province as well,” said Peterson.
(Note: this story was originally titled "Students prepare to go 'All Out' on Feb 1st." It has been updated to reflect the printed story in the Ink newspaper).