Calling out the province on tuition

Students say proposed tuition rise is a mortgage on their future

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Dr. Laura Penny addresses crowd outside Province House. (Photo: Ezra Black)

Stringing banners in front of the provincial legislature and blocking Granville Street for over an hour, a crowd of about 50 students gathered today outside Province House.

The Canadian Federation of Students invited Laura Penny to speak about the dangers of reduced funding for universities as part of an ongoing fight against rising tuition.

Penny is a graduate of the University of King's College and recently published a book called More Money Than Brains: Why Schools Suck, College is Crap and Idiots Think They're Right, which denounces the commercialization of higher education.

Elise Graham is chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia.

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Students attach a banner to the legislature's fence. (Photo: Ezra Black)

"We're calling on the government to increase funding, lower tuition fees for all students and increase the non-repayable grant portion of student loans," she says.

A warning from history

Penny offers a history lesson to the students.

"In 1937, after the crash and the depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, 'We have always known that heedless self interest is bad morals. Now we also know it is bad economics,' and that is the main point I would like to make today."

Penny thinks the O'Neill report's recommendations are inspired by fear of an aging population and a poor economy.

The report recommends

  • raising student tuition
  • cutting government funding 
  • merging universities

Penny calls this a self-defeating proposal.

"I just think it's foolhardy for them to make these kind of cuts to the one industry that brings lots of new people to Nova Scotia," she says. "Unfortunately, there is this perception that the only thing that's going to get us out of our economic tailspin is giving money to the convention center or other forms of corporate welfare."

Investing in knowledge

Penny says the province's obsessive focus on returns for its investments may come back to bite it. The O'Neill report repeatedly says the market should decide on the value of an education, but Penny disagrees.

"Saying 'let the market decide' is like saying 'let the car drive,'" she says. "If we don't invest in the knowledge economy we risk ending up in a financial crisis like our neighbors to the south."

She lambasted the proposed convention center, saying no city has made money on conventions in over a decade.

Province House workers peered out the windows to hear what Penny had to say.

Allan MacMaster, MLA for Inverness, says he regrets that university students are in such dire financial straits.

"We can't expect students to spend ten years in debt after they leave (university)," says MacMaster.

"It would be nice if they could come out with less debt, so they could maybe stay here and not be taken away because they need to get a job right away," he says.

Brenna Santacroce attended the rally. She's in her first year at King's.

The proposed tuition hike could force her to seek higher education outside Nova Scotia.

"I love Halifax," she says. "But I don't have that much money, so we'll see."

Comments

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