Poll looks at tuition costs as barrier to education

76 per cent of people in Kamloops want the province to act on reducing tuition

A poll conducted by Strategic Research in January reports that 76 per cent of people in Kamloops think that the province should act now to reduce the cost of post-secondary education.

The poll, an automated phone survey, reached out to the landline and cellular phones of 1,082 adults in the Thompson-Nicola region in January. It also found that 74 per cent of Kamloops residents think that the province of B.C. should invest more in post-secondary education.

The poll was sponsored by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE), who calculated that tuition has increased by 370 per cent since 2002.

FPSE president George Davison said the poll was conducted as part of their Open the Doors campaign, which is meant to raise awareness about the underfunding of the post-secondary education system and the effect under-funding has on both faculty and students.

In addition to the survey conducted by Strategic Research in the Thompson-Nicola region, FPSE also conducted a telephone town hall on March 1 that contacted nearly 12,000 B.C. residents.

Results from that poll were similar, with many respondents raising concern over barriers to accessing post-secondary education. That poll also found that proximity to a post-secondary institution was an issue for over half of the respondents.

“Access is being cut off or being forced into larger towns,” Davison said. “Meaning students have to move away from home, meaning living costs are higher, added to the tuitions costs which are already higher.”

Davison said that amongst increasing requirements for having a post-secondary degree in many industries, the cost of education keeps increasing. For many students, this makes obtaining a post-secondary education that much more difficult.

As the provincial election fast approaches, Davison believes that talking about the affordability of post-secondary education has become much more important.

“The Liberals response to underfunding has been to say, ‘Look we’ve put a lot of capital into buildings around the province,’” Davison said. “Buildings are nice, new facilities are nice, but they’re not giving institutions enough money to hire staff to teach in them, to clean the floors, to turn on the lights. Institutions, especially the smaller ones, have suffered much in the last 15 years.”

A similar sentiment was echoed by TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) president Tom Friedman, who also ran for the B.C. New Democratic Party in both 2009 and 2013.

“This is all geared towards the upcoming provincial election,” Friedman said. “We want the political parties to understand that post-secondary education should be a priority. It is not only important for individuals, who will no doubt benefit from a university education, but it strengthens our economy and our communities if we have educated people.”

TRUFA, a member of the FPSE, conducted their own survey on campus as part of the Open the Doors campaign on January 31. In total, 150 TRU students completed that survey. Of those students, 97 per cent said that finances were currently an issue and 63 per cent said that they were going into debt to finance their education.

Making tuition more affordable in B.C. is something that should be a priority for all of the province’s political parties in the upcoming election, Friedman said. He also stated that it is something more easily achieved than most people realize.

“To get back to that position we were in in 2002, it is a very small portion of the budget for the province,” Friedman said. “It is about a $100 million and the province currently has a surplus over $2 billion. It’s just a matter of where their priorities are at.”