Why I support a tuition freeze: Already experienced steep hikes and debt in the UK; optimistic about students rallying around a common cause
“Coming from the UK, my undergraduate student debts amount to roughly £40,000, and I’ll probably be saddled with that debt for most of my working life. For context, in 2010 the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government raised UK tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 per year (roughly equivalent to 15,000 CAN dollars) which came into effect the first year I started my undergraduate studies. Under the initial guise of a necessary, austerity measure, during the past 9 years we’ve seen more and more cuts to, for example, bursaries for low-income students, the increased casualization of the academic workforce, the full transformation of university league tables into an Olympic sport, and even talk of the tuition fee cap rising again to £16,000. It’s really sad that it’s seemingly the same story here at SFU, especially in an area that is already so unaffordable to many, with most students working multiple jobs to stay afloat.
I think it’s very important to keep Tuition Freeze going as a movement and to be on-guard both now and after the [Board of Governors] meeting in March. Because this certainly won’t be the end to attempts to raise tuition – if we at look at how education has become so much more expensive over the past 40 years, then no doubt within another, say, 5 years, university managers will be proposing another tuition hike, and so on and so forth. It’s crucial to build momentum and keep the campaign going way beyond the meeting in March. For despite the increased marketization of education in the UK, despite the intimidation and violence inflicted on students for protesting hikes or even daring to speak of free education for all, the positive side is there’s really been a culture shift among young people, both in and off campus. The protests against tuition in the 2010s united students around common concerns and in many cases radicalized them. Student movements lie at the heart of a revived interest in politics among young people on a larger scale, which today we see everywhere from Corbyn in the UK to [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Sanders in the U.S. So even if we don’t get the right decision on March 21st let’s use Tuition Freeze as an opportunity to unite around shared, interlinked struggles both in and outside student politics, and continue to fight for a better future.”
Two-year tuition freeze for all students. International and domestic. Current and incoming. No exceptions.
Tuition Freeze Now is a diverse team. We are a mix of international and domestic students that come from different levels of study, and we are not willing to budge on our demand for a freeze for all students. It’s all or nothing. There’s no one getting thrown under the bus to shoulder the increase.
[To SFU] Help us lobby the provincial government for a province-wide tuition freeze. Let’s ask them for more educational funding while we’re at it.
The “two-year” isn’t a random number, because our end goal isn’t a tuition freeze for only SFU. We’re thinking bigger — we want a province wide tuition freeze. With the rate that tuition has been increasing, it won’t be long before university becomes a space for the rich. Is this how we build a healthy society? At Tuition Freeze Now, the answer is simple — hell no.
Why they support a tuition freeze: Living costs are too high. Paired with increasing tution and interest, students are forced to live close to the poverty line.
Jesse: As a PhD student, I have been at SFU through huge changes in the Vancouver rental market. The cost of living is so high that I decided to work as a distance student while writing my thesis.
The university makes money and is reliant on highly qualified personnel such as TAs/TMs/Sessisonal Instructors, yet we are living under the poverty line. In addition to the tuition freeze, there should be a removal of interest on tuition. Every semester that I am not a TA, I end up paying interest on my tuition because I can’t afford it outright. I’m also faced with a decision about which debt to pay off: my credit card, or tuition?
“Give [professors] the money [TAs/TMs/ Sessionals] get, and see how far it goes.”
Professors live a life of privilege and are generally out of the loop when it comes to our cost of living. Give them the money we get and see how far it goes. Prospective graduate students should know about these negative yet true drawbacks. If I could go back in time I would not choose SFU again.
Bust the Myth: the Logic of Inflation and Tuition Increases
By Jorji Temple, English PhD Student at Simon Fraser University
When we talk about freezing tuition, the question we get asked most often is “What about inflation?” This question, I think, explains a lot about our attitude toward education. Often, increasing tuition in line with inflation is presented as neutral, as “only fair,” or as the natural thing to do. Here’s why it’s not:
Student incomes are not tied to inflation. Neither in any SFU contracts with workers, nor across the economy, do raises equal or exceed inflation. This means that an increase in tuition that *is* tied to inflation is an ongoing *economic redistribution* from the students to the institution. Costs are handed down to students instead of being absorbed by the institution. If your income isn’t increasing at the rate of inflation, you’re losing purchasing power. Students, as a group, have *less* money each year, and tuition increases in line with inflation make that worse.
SOURCE: Global News and Statistics Canada
Also, student fees are not the primary source of funding for public universities like SFU. Check out any of SFU’s budgets, including the proposed one for next year, and you’ll see that tuition is only a small portion of the university’s funding.
SOURCE: Simon Fraser University
I mention this because “inflation” arguments for tuition increases are premised on the idea that students are the university’s revenue source, and imply (or state) that without our financial contribution to the institution steadily increasing, the institution couldn’t function. This is simply untrue, as an examination of the last five years of budgets shows. This leaves aside how we got into the situation where universities weren’t funded properly (shoutout to Christy Clark and years of increasing Senior Admin salaries).
For only two quick examples, this year’s projected “budget deficit” could be recuperated by contributing a smaller amount to the endowment or altering building expansion plans. (If we had access to more of the proposed budget, we could offer other options for making up this deficit, but the Administration doesn’t share that information until later in the year). It also matters because each tuition increase shifts the university’s economic interests: do you want an educational institution whose decisions are based on advertising and student recruitment? One where the buildings are investments with student fees as the payoff?
The University has a choice here, whether to be an agent of dispossession or equality; whether to stand up for the students for whom it exists or to exploit them as customers because it can – restricting access to education in the process.
Where: Pollyanna 圖書館 Library, 221 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z6, Canada
Why: To discuss tuition increases across BC. We will be joined by speakers from different universities.
This event is held on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.
Please join the Tuition Freeze Now student organizers in a night of dialogue and music to learn more about the struggle for affordable education across the Lower Mainland.
There have been trends in BC post-secondary institutions towards raising tuition disproportionally for domestic and international students, and there are great impacts these decisions on the lives of students and young people studying in the Lower Mainland, especially in the midst of a housing crisis.
In order to address this issue, students have started to organize and push back on the unjust tuition hike. In SFU, through the Tuition Freeze Now Campaign, students are actively demanding the university to freeze tuition for the next two academic years and calling on SFU to work with students to lobby the provincial government to address the issue of underfunding higher education.
The speakers tonight come from different local higher education institutions (SFU, UBC and Langara) as well as various grassroots student movements and each will speak about the struggle for affordable education in their schools and the importance of student movements.
These talks will be followed by an open dialogue session where attendees can ask questions and contribute to possible strategies, speak about their own experiences, and talk about how we can create a cross-campus initiative towards affordable education.
There will be an intermission between speaker-sets with a local singer-songwriter, Madelyn Read, who will perform both political and non-political songs so we can also have time for fun, mingling, and meeting people.
Location: Pollyanna 圖書館 Library, 221 E Georgia St., Vancouver
The library has a 1.8m (6’) wide double set street front entrance with manually operated outward-swinging doors. An interior 6cm (2.5”) high by 60cm (24”) long ramp spans the width of the doorway. The bathroom is not wheelchair accessible. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements to best accommodate your needs.
We aim to have a scent-free environment. Please refrain from wearing perfumes or any scents to the event due to sensitivities.
Please do not hesitate to let the event organizers know if you have any other specific needs.
Are you a student at Simon Fraser University who will impacted by the upcoming tuition hikes? Let SFU and its Board of Governors know!
Who are the Board of Governors?
From their website: The Board of Governors is the senior governing body at Simon Fraser University constituted under the University Act. The SFU Board of Governors has 15 members including the Chancellor, the President, two elected faculty members, two elected students, one elected staff member and eight individuals appointed by the Government of the Province of British Columbia.
How are they connected to tuition?
Come March 21, the Board of Governors will make the final decision regarding the tuition increase and whether or not it will be implemented. As the governing body at SFU, they are obligated to consult students and listen to their concerns.
How you can help
Send an email to Andrew Petter, the president of SFU and one of the governors on the BOG, and the rest of the BOG members. We’ve made this email for you with this template. If possible, please use your SFU email address. If you would like to send a different message, press the yellow bar on top of the submission box.
The email will read:
Hello President Petter & SFU Board of Governors,
I am writing to inform you that I am strongly opposed to SFU administration’s proposed tuition hikes. I demand a tuition freeze for all students over the next two academic years, an end to unreasonably high international tuition fees, and that administration work with students to lobby the provincial government for more post-secondary funding so that we no longer have to bear the burden of annual tuition hikes.
As students at SFU, our education is important to us. We like studying here and this tuition increase will have a negative impact on our ability to learn. More than just our studies, the rising costs of school negatively affects our lives, mental health, and overall well being. The Lower Mainland is in the middle of an affordability crisis and students are already stretched so thin. SFU prides itself in being Canada’s top comprehensive school and yet these increases show how administration seems to not understand students’ circumstances. Many of us are working multiple jobs to be able to afford life here, and it is unreasonable to expect us to pay more for what we are already receiving.
I strongly urge you to listen to students and put an end to tuition increases.
Department: FASS/ Education. An English major with an Education minor.
Why I support a tuition freeze: Lack of financial assistance from the school while current tuition rates are already unafforable makes education unattainable for a large number of us
Hi everyone, my name is Olan and I am a fourth year English major and Education minor. I have two volunteer positions, two jobs, and I am taking four courses. My family immigrated to Canada when I was three and my mom still works two jobs that pay minimum wage in order to support our family.
With the tuition increase, I feel discouraged to want to continue my education when scholarships and funds are limited. The cost of education creates a burden and ongoing stress where I must constantly worry about how much money I need to make in order to fund my education. This has taken a toll on my mental health where I am unable to spend time with family and friends due to my schedule and I do not have the luxury to do so.
If education was more affordable, I would be able to have a better school and work life balance and I am able to spend quality time with loved ones. This in turn would improve my grades drastically and make me a well-rounded student where I would not suffer from burn-out. Any additional income that goes towards my tuition could go to helping my mom to lessen her workload as she is also overworked constantly. I wish I can support my mom more financially, but the increase cost in tuition prevents me from doing so.
I hope by sharing my story, other students may do the same as I am sure many students are in the same boat. Together, let’s advocate for a tuition freeze and make the cost of education more affordable.
Tuition Freeze Now is a student initiative to challenge SFU’s proposed tuition increases for the upcoming years, which are set to range anywhere from 2% to an outrageous 20%, depending on where students come from and what they study. As students at SFU, tuition hikes at our university have long-lasting impacts on our university careers, mental health, lives outside of school, and futures.
Our group represents a wide range of student voices and backgrounds. We have been formally endorsed by the Simon Fraser Student Society board of directors and council, the Graduate Student Society, the Teaching Support Staff Union, SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, and SFU Left Alternative.
We spoke to the BoG (Board of Governors) to explain the student opposition to tuition increases. In the midst of a housing crisis that students are trying to survive on their stagneting wages, a tuition increase is uncessesary, cruel, and unjust. In its place, we ask for an alternative budget that does not feature a tuition hike.
When SFU announced the tuition increases for the upcoming year, the announcement came with very little information about where that money would be headed, and there it was nearly impossible for students to get additional information. With the support of both the graduate and undergraduate Student Societies, that students have clearly and decisively said ‘no’ to the hikes after agreeing that we have not been consulted effectively about these increases.
The only public consultation open to all SFU students was held on October 30th, 2018. We were notified of this consultation in only one email. The meeting was held in the morning in the middle of midterm exams, on the Burnaby campus. To make things more inaccessible, little record of this meeting was made available to students after the fact – only the slides, which make little sense out of context.
While this event may meet the definition of consultation as laid out in SFU’s policies, as evident from the small turnout, it was supremely inaccessible to the vast majority of students. We want to be clear that this is not due to a lack of interest, but because of how inconvenient the meeting was to students. We also recognize that private consultations were held with student societies, though both have expressed that they left these consultations with many concerns about the necessity of the increases.
Another issue is with the amount of information available to students regarding this budget. This picture shown here – one of eight that were shown at the consultation – represents the entirety of the budgetary data we have been given to this point.
As you can see, it is very hard to get a good idea of what the budget will look like and what items are being prioritized with lines broken down no further than “other expenses.”
We have tried to do a more thorough analysis of the budget over the past three months. Even looking at past budgets and financial reports, many budget lines are too vague and general to fully understand. The student body has a right to know where our tuition money is being spent. This must happen during the consultation process. By the time the budgets and financial plans are made public, they have been set in stone and we are unable to give meaningful and effective feedback.
This picture compares the desired tuition and fee hike revenue for the upcoming university year, with the last three years of SFU’s budget surpluses.
There are a few things to note about this projection:
Both revenue and spending can change from one year to the next, which means that the last three years of surpluses don’t prove that future surpluses will continue to exist.
As well, the rules around the university endowment puts aside at least a small surplus as a contribution to keep up the endowment’s real value.
However, for years these surpluses have been much larger than the new tuition and fee revenue that each fall the administration tells us is desperately needed to keep SFU’s finances in order.
We’ve heard during the consultation that much of these surpluses have come from apparently long-running faculty vacancies, but without more detailed information, we can’t make an informed judgement about these vacancies. When it comes to SFU’s finances, the rules, assumptions and expectations of the status quo far outweigh the well-being of the students.
Since last fall, we have spent a lot of time talking to students through events, canvassing, tabling, and our petition – which is now at almost 2000signatures.
In all of these conversations we started to see a trend: Anxieties about keeping up with the increasing tuition demands paired up with skyrocketing rent in a housing crisis and stagnant wages is a concern for all students.
We are tired of the burden of education falling on our shoulders. We are tired of the unfair system of payment between international and domestic students. And we are tired of being squeezed from all angles – school, work, and rent-wise. A recent survey done by health and counseling shows that 90% of students feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities a student has to deal with in their daily life.
Last November, we hosted “My Tuition Story”, an event which brought together nearly 200 students. Many were shocked about the enormous hike for incoming international students, while a large number had no idea about the increases or consultation process whatsoever.
Moving forward, our demands are simple:
We want a full tuition freeze for the next two academic years – meaning a 0% increase for all students, regardless of status or program. We see this as an urgent matter – students need relief now.
During this two-year tuition freeze, we will partner with SFU administration, students, and the Student Societies to lobby the provincial and federal governments for more post-secondary funding.
Finally, you may have seen or noticed that we attempted to put forth a motion requiring that administration draft an alternative budget for the tuition proposal – one that does not include any tuition increases.
It is worth pointing out two things about this alternate budget:
It is a symbol of just how hard it is for students to be involved in Board of Governors or SFU administrative matters. We have faced a lot of difficulty with crafting an alternative budget. We are disappointed that this governing body, responsible for overseeing our institution, is so out of reach to us.
Even though our motion cannot be moved, we want to emphasize the importance of an alternative budget anyway. We fear that without another possibility, the process of consultation will result in the current budget being the only one available during the final vote in March.
SFU needs a budget, but it does not have to be this one. It could be one that supports our mental health and lets us pursue our studies without undue financial burden. Tuition freezes are not a radical idea – they have been in place many places throughout the world and Canada.
Ultimately, this budget is about priorities. If it wanted to, SFU could make affordability its priority and use its influence to find funding from the provincial government. We strongly urge you to stand with students who have overwhelmingly expressed their support for this initiative.
We need a more transparent consulting process.
We need an immediate tuition freeze.
And we need to work together to ensure that universities in BC never need to rely on tuition hikes again.