by Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer
As initially determined at the Board of Governors meeting on March 19, SFU has approved a 2% tuition fee hike (4% for international students, and upwards of 20% for specialized programs) for the 2020–21 Budget and Financial plan. Concerns by students circulated around the decision, and the SFSS even responded in a letter to the Department of Finance opposing the move.
But, these concerns — as prevalent as they are — arose in the spring, before the pandemic. There has been some discussion of the student body going on strike, but so far there has been little organized action surrounding it. With rising concerns over virtual education’s quality, students who are financially struggling are also now expected to jump through hoops just to pay for a less-than-ideal version of their studies. Considering these circumstances, a tuition increase is the last thing students need.
Being able to afford post-secondary education is without a doubt already a huge financial burden for many students. The stress of applying for student loans, scholarships, bursaries, and any other form of financial aid is on its own a headache. Let alone other financial requirements like purchasing textbooks, supplies, adequate technology, and the latest software to go with it. Alongside other financial tolls that students and young people face (e.g. housing and food security), I’m sure most students would agree that being a student is just so darn expensive. Even without the financial and economic insecurities students may be facing due to COVID-19, the continuous tuition increases alone bring on an inequitable studying barrier for lower-income students.
It’s been clear that in non-pandemic circumstances that the SFU administration has not entirely considered the financial capabilities of their student body. Now that COVID-19 has been added to the mix, students are experiencing additional hardships brought on by circumstances like job insecurity or decreased income. On top of that, online learning for some requires additional costs to properly participate in classes, which can mean investing in a stronger internet connection and an adequate at-home workspace. Ultimately, the administration should consider that such costs would be avoidable if classes were not remote, but unfortunately this is not the case.
I understand that the continuation of remote learning means that professors and TAs still need to be paid, campuses need to continue to be looked after, and that construction projects still need my tuition money. However, I also understand what it’s like to be an SFU student, who is not receiving the expected level of education that they enrolled in. Specifically, a now lacklustre education that will make me go into debt. Frankly, I am frustrated that in times like these, I feel not only unsupported by SFU, but as if my tuition money is more important than my mental and financial well-being.
Students need SFU to step up and provide more support right now, and a hefty tuition increase completely overlooks the needs of students who have been financially struggling and who are also feeling impacts of the pandemic. That being said, if there are students who choose to go on strike over the tuition hike, to say the least, I would not be surprised at all.