Tuition Talk: Viraj

Name: Viraj 

Faculty: Sociology and criminology (tentative) 

Level of study: Fourth-year undergraduate

Reason for supporting a tuition freeze: A tuition hike is unfair to both international and domestic students

Hello everyone, my name is Viraj and I am currently in my fourth year here at SFU. I transferred from KPU in spring of 2016, where I studied sociology, history, and Asian studies. My intended route of study is a joint major in sociology and criminology (I’m leaning more towards the criminology side of things as I find it much more interesting and applicable). I am currently working two part-time restaurant jobs. Having recently acquired a second job as a cook-in-training, I also work as a waiter to pay my way through school (shout out to all my service industry people past and present; there truly is no other grind like ours). 

I genuinely feel that what SFU is doing is wrong to not only existing domestic students, but also to the international student body. They are already forced into paying ludicrously high tuition rates

The reason I support a tuition freeze is simple — I genuinely feel that what SFU is doing is wrong to not only existing domestic students, but also to the international student body. They are already forced into paying ludicrously high tuition rates. Not to mention the myriad of other issues they face simply by being new faces in an unfamiliar country: language barriers, marked social isolation, loneliness, legal barriers that limit what/how often they can work, etc. The criminology student in me will go far as to say that the post-secondary tuition rates for international students constitute a form of legalized extortion, because lectures from a professor, assistance from one/more TA’s, and access to office hours should not cost over two thousand dollars per course. Ever. Not at SFU, nor anywhere else.  

I did not wish to offload the burden onto my parents

On the domestic front, things aren’t much better. This is something I can personally attest to, having paid for the vast majority of my post-secondary education myself through a combination of student loans and various part-time jobs. I did not wish to offload the burden onto my parents, who are on the older side (they will both be 62 this year) with a nice list of health problems between them. As such, I also do what I can to pitch in financially with regards to taking care of the home (paying bills, getting groceries, gas money etc.). My family was certainly never “wealthy” by any means, so I learned self-sufficiency and the value of a dollar at a young age. Hell, I still remember 90% of the reason I got my first job at fourteen was simply because I got fed up asking the old man for money (sorry Pa just being real). Now, having recently turned 26, I stress about finances more than ever, often to an unhealthy degree. My work/life balance is tenuous at best.

[Financial issues], plus my own issues with mental health (generalized anxiety and depression specifically) have made not only meeting the cost, but the general demands of a post-secondary education difficult for me.

People ask me all the time about why and how I continue to put so much on my plate. Well, allow me to explain: How else am I going to find the money to pay for school? Save up for a down payment on a home? Build myself a stable financial foundation for the future? Take care of my parents when they are old and sick? Well, admittedly, they’re already old and sick, so time is very much of the essence. These outside factors, plus my own issues with mental health (generalized anxiety and depression specifically) have made not only meeting the cost, but the general demands of a post-secondary education difficult for me.

I’ve considered dropping out several times. If it wasn’t for the consistent encouragement of my parents, a close friend circle, the wonderful staff and various resources at SFU Health and Counselling, and the CAL (Centre For Accessible Learning) who’ve made my time at SFU significantly better, I most certainly would have thrown in the proverbial towel long ago.

My marks have suffered as a result. I’m currently on medication and have taken two others prior to this one. I’ve accessed counselling both inside and outside of school, and recently started using the “MySSP” service that SFU offers all to help me cope. I’ve considered dropping out several times. If it wasn’t for the consistent encouragement of my parents, a close friend circle, the wonderful staff and various resources at SFU Health and Counselling, and the CAL (Centre For Accessible Learning) who’ve made my time at SFU significantly better, I most certainly would have thrown in the proverbial towel long ago. Honorable mentions to Mr. Matthew Menzies (my adviser at the CAL), Father Julio at the Interfaith Centre, and Mrs. Doriana Marello and her “Better Coping” support group which I attended on and off last year. I truly believe she is an angel sent from the heavens to bless us mere mortals on Earth. I strongly urge any/all SFU students to try “Better Coping” if they haven’t done so already. 

In summary, I think I speak for all students at SFU (domestic and international) when I say we have had enough. Enough of an overtly greedy and apathetic school administration that continues to strangle students financially with increasingly higher fees. Enough of these so-called “educators” who stand idly by and let all this unfold, and care more about their jobs and personal research than they do the actual students they teach. Enough of underfunded health and wellness resources on campus for students. End this tuition hike now.  

Tuition Talk: DTZ

Name: “DTZ”

Faculty: English 

Level of study: Final year honours, not completed

Why I support a tuition freeze: Tuition hikes put profit over people, and we must fight to have the right to education. 

 

I am a domestic ex-student at Simon Fraser University who was pursuing an undergrad English degree and writing my honours thesis when I dropped out. I dropped out during what was going to be either my second-to-last or last draft of my thesis.

I see questions in the eyes of almost everyone I have ever told that I dropped out of my undergrad. Even more questions when I tell them that I dropped out near the completion of my honours thesis. Some, mostly people who I organize with, understood and fully respected, even supported, my decision. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but now I know that I don’t regret it.

I did not pay tuition out of pocket during the first year and a half of my undergrad. Excluding textbooks and class materials (as well as other expenses people usually write off as practically luxuries for students, like food), my tuition was paid for with the scholarships and grants I received after graduating from high school. The condition was that I take full course loads for every semester of the year, and that I be enrolled for at least 2 semesters per year. I lost my scholarships when I became severely mentally ill and could no longer attend classes full time.

The possibility of taking out students loans, having them accumulate interest post-graduation, and spending much of my life paying that debt back was a heavy mental (and now material) burden for me and my family

Had I not received scholarships or grants, me and my working class family wouldn’t have been able to pay for tuition. The possibility of taking out students loans, having them accumulate interest post-graduation, and spending much of my life paying that debt back was a heavy mental (and now material) burden for me and my family. My tuition each semester after my first year increased, and at that point I was already taking out loans to pay for it.

Tuition is already ludicrously and unjustifiably expensive. It was expensive when I was a student, and it is set to become increasingly worse. Tuition hikes would only make education harder to attain, and therefore harder for people to search for jobs that will support them in this increasingly and unsustainably expensive city. The possibility of taking out loans is no justification for a tuition raise, since these loans follow graduates for many years following their degree, and job seekers are in an increasingly precarious position (not to mention a trend of unpaid internships, contractualization, and stagnant wages.) This proposal sends the message that education is prioritized for those with money or (partly in my case) for those who can endure the unbelievable pressures (read: barriers) of keeping scholarships and grants.

At SFU (as would be the case in any academic institution under capitalism), I was a thing to generate profit continuously for someone else

Not only was I suffering mental illness and the burden of loans and debt, I was also becoming increasingly disillusioned with academia after having so much faith in it before. The neoliberal policies of the administration are evident in but not only in its proposed tuition raises. There was and still is a general push in the Liberal Arts departments to structure our education according to the needs of the locally flourishing tech and culture industries. At SFU (as would be the case in any academic institution under capitalism), I was a thing to generate profit continuously for someone else–profit through tuition, through loan debt, through my work in whatever industry they hoped I would enter.

My decision to drop out was not only because I couldn’t mentally or financially afford to keep going. It was also because I knew I was needed–and would be happier–elsewhere. My thesis, as much of a jumbled mess that it became, was an investigation on community-produced spaces, art-gentrification, and the solidifying of public-private boundaries by capital, settler-colonialism, and urban planning. My investigation remained incomplete during my thesis, because I brought it outside to my community and the people I work with, where it is being realized by our collective actions and struggles. I say this because it is fundamental to the building of true people power in this city that students fight against the systems that keep them from receiving the education that they need. These same systems reproduce settler-colonialism (which includes barring Indigenous people from all levels of education and generating profit through institutions on stolen and unceded land) and the widespread and growing unaffordability of living for working class and poor people in the city.

“W” being erected at Vancouver’s Woodwards Center. Downtown Vancouver has become one of the formost examples of gentrification in BC. Source: Museum of Vancouver. 

I stand in solidarity with the student organizers at SFU as an ex-student. These tuition hikes put profit over people, and students have the capacity to organize, mobilize, and act against this proposal. If education is not treated as a right by the state and its institutions, if it is withheld from us, then we must take it back!

SFSS ENDORSES TUITION FREEZE NOW

We are happy to announce that the SFSS has formally endorsed Tuition Freeze Now on January 11, 2019.  

The SFSS, SFU’s student society which represents its 25,000+ undergraduate students, has recently come out with an official statement in support of the Tuition Freeze Now movement. It is incredible for us to have the support of SFU students, and we look forward to working with the SFSS to continue pushing for a tuition freeze on campus. 

Read more about the SFSS’s endorsement of Tuition Freeze Now on their website

 

Tuition Talk: Ed

Name: Ed 

Faculty: English 

Level of study: 2nd year PhD 

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.”

OUR DEMANDS

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

Tuition Talk: Jesse

Pseudonym: Jesse 

Level of study: 5th year PhD  

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.

 

“But I thought the hike was tied to inflation?”

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.

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.

References:

https://globalnews.ca/news/3531614/average-hourly-wage-canada-stagnant/

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/02/23/wages-canada-low-end-jobs_n_14962214.html

https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/canadian-median-income-growth-sluggish-over-past-10-years-statscan-figures-show

Febraury 21: Burn the Palaces

BURN THE PALACES, FREEZE TUITION NOW! 

What: A night of speakers, music, and friends 

When: Thursday, February 21, 2019, from 7 to 9 

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.

Refreshments will be provided! ♥

__________________________________
Accessibility Information:

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 librarian@polly-anna.ca 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.

We can book ASL service upon request.

To inquire, email: sfutuitionfreezenow@gmail.com

Write a letter to SFU

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 addressIf 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.

Sincerely,

[Your title and name] 

[Email]

[Major] 

 

Tuition Freeze

  

Hello President Petter & SFU Board of Governors,

**your signature**

84 signatures

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Tuition Talk: Olan

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.”

Contributer: Olan 

Department: FASS/ Education. An English major with an Education minor. 

Year: Fourth 

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.