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The Average Student is Changing, Dalhousie’s Supports Should Change in Kind

Students are entitled to make the most of enrolment at Dalhousie, but can’t

Our perception of the “average university student” is being ruptured by the painful and heightening barriers to inclusion in post-secondary schooling, especially in Halifax. The student-survivalist is perhaps a more apt title.

You don’t need to be reminded that education and financial solidity are mutually exclusive to masses of people. You may need to be updated about just how far these exclusions have widened.

Global News reported recently that hundreds of Dalhousie University students are relying on the campus food bank. Otherwise, they would have to choose between housing and feeding themselves. 

It is a key observation to take from this circumstance that tuition is not always on the expenses cutting board regardless of its inhuman price. Indeed, students would be remiss not to consider that the job market is replete with degrees and they could be left behind in their fields without one of their own. While looking toward the job market, they must be convinced they are only temporarily insolvent—they have no other choice.

Of course, the stressors and maladies associated with unstable housing and nutrition only serve to make this gamble less tenable. Fronting the mountain of tuition to Dalhousie begets very few concessions from the university, like a U-Pass and fitness facility access. These perks are paltry and do very little to assuage one’s worries about sustaining themselves in Halifax.

What other services could students be provided?

The vast majority of Dalhousie students live off-campus, and as such, tend to fall within one of Dalhousie’s student support blind spots. The cost of groceries has recently become interesting to talk about again, and for good reason. Taking advantage of student discount days at the grocery store is appealing, but inaccessible for some given scheduling and geographical barriers. 

Dalhousie should make an effort to standardize student discounting by striking a deal with grocers to offer student discounts every day of the week. Obviously, programming of this nature is easier to enact when the service at hand is one of Dalhousie’s own, but evidently this type of deal is not impossible. 

The aforementioned U-Pass is an excellent example of outside collaboration, and some businesses offer student discounts as a rule. Groceries, being a necessity, should be guaranteed for students at Dalhousie’s behest.

Most food won’t last long exposed to the elements, a lot like people. As such, Dalhousie should subsidize student housing. This would be a welcome departure from simply directing students to places4students.com, which offers no aid in payments but does provide a platform to connect students with landlords. 

Utilities, though unlikely to offer any student discounts owing to their status as monopolies, could also be subsidized in the same way, freeing up students’ income or bursaries to create a more stable financial way forward after graduation.

Transportation, though admirably made easier by the availability of the U-Pass, is still a barrier surmounted only with great difficulty for some students. Buses do not run at all times, nor to all locales. 

Helping students to acquire active transport, like bicycles, could make an immense difference for those not living near bus routes or those with schedules that require early morning or late night transport. Your DalCard could even feature access to e-Scooters.

Can Dalhousie do even more?

Yes, obviously. As can every other institution: the province, the city and the federal government. 

In the interest of moving one step at time, Dalhousie is up for scrutiny here. Dalhousie should increase the amount of financial assistance which is distributed to students and cease, immediately, the tuition hikes which have amounted to a more than 20 per cent increase in costs on average. For reference, Dalhousie reported a 10 per cent increase in revenue in their 2022-23 Financial Report and has seen its incoming revenue decrease in just one year out of the past four (a revenue reduction of 2.4 per cent in the 2020-21 reporting period).

Meal plans and residences are also necessities for many, but are treated too often like luxuries. Residences are accessible only to the select few and to even fewer for more than their first year. 

It is our right and our responsibility to demand, at all levels, that these nexuses of learning and living become sites of stability, rather than struggle

More cash in students’ pockets, whether through saving on tuition or receiving more financial aid, is ultimately a key step in a longer walk. A truly equitable campus is one on which, among other changes, no students are disadvantaged by food, housing, or transport insecurity as a rule. 

It is our right and our responsibility to demand, at all levels, that these nexuses of learning and living become sites of stability, rather than struggle.

Organizations and initiatives, like the campus food bank, exist to help you or those you know if financial buoyancy is a struggle. The Dalhousie Mutual Aid Society maintains a map of services across the city which may be of service.   

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