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Tracking down tuition

Crowd shot
Signs waving and crowds marching. Photo by Katrina Pyne

The hikes of the last year that have students talking



Welcome to Dalhousie – home of the Tigers, host to nearly 17, 000 students, and recipient of some of the highest tuition payments in the country.

Despite the waves of student protests that hit the streets earlier this year, the provincial government cut university funding this year by four per cent and raised the tuition cap to three per cent higher than it was before.

Depending on students’ faculty and program, Dal undergraduates can expect to pay approximately $3,752.00 to $4,638.70 per term for a full schedule in the current school year.

Thousands of students showed up to protest the decision at the Student Day of Action on Feb. 2 this year, but some still feel pessimistic about their ability to alter administrative and government decisions.

“There is nothing much I can do about it,” says Nic Lin, an international student studying commerce at Dal.

Lin says that international students already pay a large sum of money and that having to pay more “is terrifying,” but seemingly inevitable. “I need this education,” he says.

International students’ academic fees have gone up 6.5 per cent from last year. Starting in September, international students will pay $3,865.50 on top of regular tuition.

Even higher increases have been put in place in professional programs, with dentistry facing the highest hikes at 14 per cent. Law and medicine are facing six per cent and ten per cent increases, respectively.

Prospective Dal student, Stuart Morrison also feels helpless when it comes to fighting the surging costs of post-secondary education in the province.

“I’ve always assumed I’d go to Dal, but looking at the level of tuition now compared to other universities (…) has encouraged me to look at other options.”

“It can be tough,” admits Gabe Hoogers, Nova Scotia representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. “But ultimately the government is accountable to the public. They want to get re-elected so they have to listen eventually.”

“The best way that students can affect change is to mobilize and to campaign in order to sway the public and thereby sway those in charge,” he says.

Hoogers points out that student action has already made some impact – the government reduced the original ten per cent increase in international student fees that Dalhousie initially proposed.

“This was directly because of letters students and student unions wrote to the government,” he says. “I’ve heard from the Deputy Minister of Education herself that it was those letters that made the difference.”

International students have been protesting the recommended increase through petitions and letters since April.

Canadian student loan debts are steadily climbing towards $14 billion. Nova Scotian graduates on average accumulate approximately $30,000 in student debt, a number that will increase by $9,000 in seven years, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.

When asked how students might challenge tuition hikes and booming debt, Hoogers insists that students need to familiarize themselves with the issues and the facts.

“Know the system, and try to affect it with that knowledge,” he says.


For visuals from the February 2, 2011 Student Day of Action protest last school year, see the slideshow or the videos we’ve posted.

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