By Paul Choptuik, Coordinating News Editor
On June 20, members of the SFU Tuition Freeze Now campaign appealed to the BC 2020 Budget Consultation Committee in Abbotsford. Founded in October 2018 in response to proposed tuition hikes, SFU Tuition Freeze Now advocates for a two-year tuition freeze for all university students in B.C.
The BC 2020 Budget Consultation Committee holds province-wide budget consultations and presents a final report to the Legislative Assembly with budgetary recommendations.
The committee, one of 10 permanent parliamentary committees, currently consists of seven MLAs: Bob D’Eith (chair), Dan Ashton (deputy chair), Doug Clovechok, Rich Coleman, Mitzi Dean, Ronna-Rae Leonard, and Nicholas Simons.
Public consultations took place from June 10–21, and were located in multiple locations in B.C., including Kimberley, Kamloops, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Vancouver, and Abbotsford.
Kayla Phillips, a graduate student in the department of political science, addressed the committee alongside Annie Bhuiyan, an undergraduate student, on behalf of SFU Tuition Freeze Now. They asked the committee to recommend a cap on tuition.
Given five minutes to present their appeal to the committee, Phillips and Bhuiyan illustrated economic trends students in B.C. face that make education more and more unaffordable.
They highlighted university costs rising faster than the rate of general inflation, lowered grant funding for full time students, and the shrinking proportion of university funding when compared to the GDP of B.C. Then, Bhuyian outlined what SFU Tuition Freeze Now would like to see.
“In the short term, reversing this trend would mean small but meaningful hikes in real terms of the provincial grant funding given to universities, which would allow some measure of relief for students suffering from affordability issues across the province.
In the medium term, the committee should research and recommend the amount of ongoing increase in funding that would ensure a viable tuition freeze but does not degrade the quality of education and services provided by universities.”
After the presentation, the committee asked no questions.
D’Eith thanked the duo before noting that the message was one they had already heard.
“We have heard from a number of students around the province with regards to tuition fees and other funding for post-secondary, and we appreciate you adding your voice to that,” D’Eith said.
Phillips later commented to The Peak on how she felt SFU Tuition Freeze Now’s remarks were received by the committee.
“I think they were well received, but as one of the deputy clerks let us know, they’ve basically been on the road for two weeks and essentially at every spot they’ve heard a similar message, which does means our message is resonating with people around the province.
“The fact that there wasn’t any extra questions just means they’ve really heard this message so many times that there is no doubt left in their minds that there is something they have to do about this.”
The full transcripts of all the consultations are available online through the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia’s website, under the sub-heading of Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.