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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2002

B.C. Deregulates Tuition Fees, Scraps First-Year Grants

CAUT is condemning the decision of the B.C. government to fully deregulate university and college tuition fees in the province.

CAUT president Tom Booth says the provincial government's announcement last month lifting a six-year freeze on tuition fees is "shortsighted and mean-spirited," and will allow universities and colleges to raise fees to whatever levels they wish.

"With deregulation, the B.C. government is going where even the Ontario Conservative government just recently refused to go," Booth said. "What we're seeing is the beginning of the unravelling of a national public post-secondary education system built on the principles of accessibility and quality."

Maureen Shaw, president of the College Institute Educators' Association of B.C. said CIEA advised the government to maintain the tuition freeze during recent consultations. "The government admits the students they consulted want the freeze to stay. Educators certainly gave the government the same message. It seems that advice didn't have much to do with the government's final decision," Shaw said.

Meanwhile, students in B.C. received more bad new in February when the government tabled its provincial budget announcing that university and college funding is being frozen and government grants to first-year students are being eliminated.

"Scrapping first-year grants means that many lower- and middle-income students will never pursue a post-secondary education," said Summer McFadyen, B.C. chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. "And it means that those students who actually get into the system will be burdened with higher debt loads."

Booth predicts the Campbell government's decision to deregulate fees and eliminate first-year grants will have serious economic repercussions.

"At a time when everyone recognizes it is more important than ever for people to get a college or university education, the B.C. government is about the shut the door on students and families who can't afford the big increases that lie ahead," Booth said. "By putting up barriers that prevent any person from attaining a college or university education, the government is doing the equivalent of burying a financial fortune. B.C. surely can't afford to leave this treasure in the ground to decay."

Booth says it is "extremely cynical of this government to cut taxes which have primarily benefited the wealthy and to underwrite that by raising tuition and other user fees that will hurt lower- and middle-income families."

The decision to deregulate tuition fees follows the passage of Bill C-28, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, which gives colleges in B.C. the right to increase class sizes and to require faculty to take on more students.

"This government is not interested in improving the quality of education," Booth said. "It's telling students they have to sit in larger classes, have less contact with teachers, and on top of that pay thousands of dollars more in fees."

Since taking office, the Campbell government has also reduced the minimum wage for young people and eliminated youth employment programs.