Panelists educate students for Feb. 4 Day of Action

Panel discusses rising tuition fees, debt burden on students

Catrina Brown and Max Haiven talking about the burden of student debt. Photo: Emily Sollows


Kirsten Stotz is in her fifth year of study at Dalhousie and estimates her student debt will be $45,000 when she finishes her degree next year. She says her education will truly be a debt sentence.

“I have to live with my parents, I have to get a job while I go to school which doesn’t allow me to graduate as quickly as I can, which makes me go into more debt,” says Stotz.

Amel Bensalim is a Dalhousie student who says she’s fortunate that high tuition fees are not much of a burden for her, but she knows many international students who struggle with the even higher costs of getting a post-secondary education in Nova Scotia.

Both Stotz and Bensalim will be marching on February 4 to protest increasing tuition fees at the Canadian Federation of Students Day of Action protest.

There was an overall sense of frustration in professors, students and student leaders at a panel discussion Thursday entitled “Why Education Shouldn’t be a Debt Sentence.”. The panel discussed rising tuition fees, the impact this has on students, and what young people can do to try to make education more affordable.

Students listen as panelists talk about high tuition fees in Nova Scotia. Photo: Emily Sollows

These discussions are meant to prepare and educate students for the Feb. 4 day of action, when students will take to the streets to protest the rising costs of higher education.

Nova Scotia students pay among the highest tuition fees in the country, $481 more per year than the national average. Their fees have increased 14.6% over the past four years.

Max Haiven, associate professor at NSCAD, says universities are “producing debtors who have graduated tens of thousands of dollars in debt and so desperate you’re willing to accept unpaid internships as a way of getting your foot in the door. … We’re sacrificing a whole generation.”

Students in the audience expressed concerns that professors are not supporting the cause of rising tuition fees, or are showing complacency on the issue.

A student signing the petition to make higher education more affordable in NS. Photo: Emily Sollows
A student signing the petition to make higher education more affordable in NS. Photo: Emily Sollows

Laura Penny, professor at University of King’s College, says it’s “absolutely essential that we stay critical of the administration.”

King’s student union president Michaela Sam stresses the importance of the day of action. She says, “we need to be making this an issue. We need to be making this a dialogue because we know that having a more educated society is going to benefit all of us. … I think that we can reduce tuition fees and I think that we can see a form of free post-secondary education in this country.”

Catrina Brown, associate professor at Dalhousie University, remembers the financial struggles she faced as an undergraduate student, and says there may be a lack of understanding between professors and students today.


Catrina Brown recounts the financial hardships she faced in her undergraduate degree — via Vimeo.

The panelists said low government funding to universities and more money going to administration are the cause of increasing fees. 

“The university has essentially become a factory,” Haiven said,  “a factory overseen by a managerial class that’s growing year upon year, that’s earning incredibly hefty salaries to manage this institution as if it were  Wal-mart and like Wal-mart, turn out a bunch of cheap goods as quickly as they can for as high turnover as possible.”