UNB students were busy Tuesday in preparation for a sit-in protest against the tuition reset proposal which is to take place outside the Fredericton Senate meeting. Over 20 students met at Ludlow Hall to make posters for the protest at around noon.
The Tuition Hike Protest is in response to the tuition reset proposal that was made public at the end of February at a UNBSU council meeting. The UNB Board of Governors will vote on the proposal in May.
These differential program fees will potentially hit law students especially hard, and concerns over student debt and the transparency of the process have made students resist supporting the proposed changes.
The proposed tuition changes suggest that arts and science students pay $7,096 per year; forestry and environmental management pay $7,434; education, computer science and kinesiology students pay $7,772; business/business administration, nursing, engineering and renaissance college students pay $8,110; and law students pay a little over $10,000 per year.
Kathleen Adams, a first year law student and member of the Law Students Society (LSS), is the primary organizer the tuition hike protest and was present at the sign-making that happened earlier Tuesday in Ludlow Hall.
Adams stressed the importance of advocating for incoming students, who will be disproportionately affected if the proposal passes.
“They’ll be paying twice what we are when we’re in third year [and] they’re in first year,” said Adams, acknowledging that many future law students are already currently studying at UNB. “I want them to know that we are fighting for them.”
The LSS is working with the UNBSU to fight the tuition hike, and have called their campaign #KeepTheDoorOpenUNB to highlight the importance of keeping tuition at an affordable and accessible rate.
“Keeping the door open, letting people know they can always come in and this is greater than just UNB, this is a social issue for all of New Brunswick,” Adams said.
Adams said that they’re going to continue advocating against the reset until the April 19 Board of Governors meeting where the Board will vote on the proposed differential program fee tuition model. This will include a letter-writing campaign at Ludlow this Thursday.
“If there’s any UNB alum that are on the Board of Governors, then this should be something that’s close to their heart,” said Adams.
In an emailed statement to The Brunswickan, UNB vice-president academic George MacLean said that he is aware of students' concerns.
“We understand that students have questions and concerns. This is the first time that UNB has taken a close look at tuition in over a decade and we’re doing so now as part of a broader strategy to ensure we can continue to deliver a high-quality education to our students," said MacLean in the email.
According to MacLean, the tuition review is one of the ways the university administration is dealing with UNB's deficit.
UNBSU council members among students that showed up for sign-making
Around 25-30 students showed up to the sign-making in Ludlow Hall, creating posters that say “No to Hikes #FightTheFees” or “Stop Drowning Us in Debt.” Although the sign-making took place in Ludlow and featured many law students, students from other faculties and members of the Student Union council were also present.
Emily McMillan, UNBSU nursing representative, said that the 22.4 per cent tuition increase proposed for the nursing faculty may prevent people who want to be nurses from taking the program if they can’t afford it.
“They know no matter how high they hike our tuition in the nursing faculty, you are still going to have bodies in those seats at the end of the day because there is such a long waitlist for this program,” said McMillan.
“But that wouldn’t give people like me opportunities. I would not have been able to afford to come here.”
The computer science faculty is also potentially facing one of largest hikes at 17.3 per cent. Computer science representative Téa Fazio says this could have a negative impact on the amount of students taking computer science, which is problematic as she says they are somewhat of an up and coming field.
“It’s really frustrating to see something like this tuition change come up and discourage students from coming to UNB and discourage students from coming to certain faculties. It’s very important to us that everyone has an opportunity to go pursue their dreams,” said Fazio.
Computer science student Vasili Osipau said that while UNB's program is one of the best in the country, he’s concerned that interested students may not be able to afford to attend UNB in the future.
“It’s scary for me too just to think how much my degree costs even with scholarships and what not. And I know people who would want to come here, but it just might scare them away,” said Osipau.
There were even students from STU who showed up to the event. Ariel Ottens is a STU student who said she came to provide solidarity. “I know people who go to UNB Law, and I know what it’s like to be a student, and I don’t think anyone in the world should have [student] debt so like that’s why I’m here,” said Ottens.
Students unhappy with the timing of tuition hike announcement
Many of the students at the sign-making were upset that administration chose to announce the proposed tuition reset so close to the end of the school year.
“Everything about this was pointed, the time of year, the time of day. We are exhausted this time of year; we’re all burnt out; we’re all doing exams soon,” said Ottens.
“They’re planning on voting on it in the middle of exams. It’s literally the most brazen and disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Nate Wallace, a Renaissance College student present at the sign-making session.
“What I’m hoping is that we have the Senate become on our side and help tell the Board of Governors that this hike can’t go through. Delay the vote, so that we can actually have them come back with a realistic proposal because right now this is completely out of bounds,” said Wallace.
MacLean said in his emailed statement that they are in fact currently considering feedback the task force has already received.
"I do want to emphasize that things are not set in stone," he said. "We are appreciative of the valuable feedback from our various consultations and have already begun discussing ways to implement some of the feedback we’ve received to date. We’re meeting with Fredericton senate today and I’m certain it will have important feedback we’ll want to take away and consider as well."
Students will sit-in on the UNB Fredericton Senate meeting on Tuesday evening. The Brunswickan will update this story as it unfolds.