Taylor Rocca, Roving Editor Ω
Feb. 1 marked the National Day of Action for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), including the Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union (TRUSU).
The National Day of Action is a Canada-wide event that takes place annually in an effort to fight for education as a right, not a privilege.
This was the first time that TRUSU hosted the event since 2007.
TRUSU focused its event with an educational stance in mind. Rather than protest in public or in front of government buildings, the event’s goal was to educate on issues at hand for B.C. and TRU students through the use of carnival games on Old Main’s Student Street.
“TRU does receive the lowest amount of funding for post-secondary education out of all research schools in B.C.,” said Jordan Harris, vice president external of TRUSU.
Apart from low funding, tuition fees in the province have also been on a steady rise.
“Tuition fees have risen 200 per cent and 12 times the rate of inflation over the last 10 years,” Harris said.
Olivia Skagos is the Women’s Collective representative for TRUSU.
She was stationed at a table educating students on B.C.’s needs-based grant system.
Students spun a Wheel-of-Fortune-style game that landed them on a game piece representing a specific province.
If a student spun ‘Alberta,’ Skagos provided them with a comparison of the needs-based grant system in Alberta versus that which exists in B.C.
“If you are a student in Alberta and you’re having a hard time paying your tuition and you need financial aid, the provincial government on average will give $2,500 per student,” Skagos said.
“It’s a needs-based grant, so they don’t need to pay it back. In B.C. there is no needs-based grant system.
“If you are having trouble paying your tuition, you can apply for a student loan but you have to pay the interest on that afterwards.”
B.C. is the only province in Canada without a needs-based grant system.
Kevin Pankewich is entering the arts program at TRU.
He volunteered at the National Day of Action because he believes that making tuition more expensive and education less accessible creates a barrier that prevents people from entering into post-secondary education.
“The work from students and the knowledge that they accumulate winds up going back into society anyhow,” Pankewich said.
“Why should [students] be strapped with the cost of [school] when it’s a social benefit to everybody to have these students in school?”
According to its 2011-12 budget, TRUSU will spend $44,800 on advocacy campaigns and government relations this year.
The funding for the National Day of Action came out of this budget, according to Harris.
Apart from educating its students, TRUSU also lobbies both the federal and provincial government about these issues.
“We met with the premier and the minister [of education],” Harris said.
“We mentioned all of our arguments from our campaign, from tuition fees to debt to interest rates.”
Tom Friedman is an English professor and former president of the TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA).
He was on Student Street to show his support for TRUSU’s campaign.
“I see that students are having to work two jobs, maybe three jobs,” Friedman said, “They’re tired when they come to class. They can’t appreciate what campus life is.”
Apart from supporting the National Day of Action on campus, TRUFA also teams with CFS in lobbying the provincial government.