BC students rally to demand tuition freeze

Local coalition represents over 100,000 students that have endorsed their demands

Numerous protestors are seen crossing the street. Most are holding signs that read “Free Tuition” and “We Are Not Cash Cows.” Others hold umbrellas while one individual is holding a megaphone.
Sude Guvendik discusses the toll tuition increases have on international students. Image courtesy of Sima Jamali.

By: Chloë Arneson, News Writer

On April 14, 2022, students and workers from UBC, UVIC, and SFU participated in a rally to put a stop to tuition increases. The protest, organized by Tuition Freeze Now (TFN), started outside Metrotown skytrain station and proceeded to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training’s office on Nelson Avenue in Deer Lake, Burnaby.

According to TFN’s press release, the group’s main concern is that BC universities have become “a place for the rich, and not the working class.” 

The Peak spoke to Sude Guvendik, president of the International Students Advocacy Group, to learn more about the campaign. The group is part of the larger coalition that organized the rally. The coalition includes the SFSS, SFU350, SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance, and groups from UBC and UVIC. 

“[We want to] urge the provincial government to take swift action to stop the exploitative systems of higher education,” said Guvendik. 

The campaign hopes to achieve a tuition freeze and create a commission to investigate the possibility of free post-secondary education for all BC students, according to their press release

TFN’s press release stated students are struggling financially to keep up with increasing tuition. Teaching support staff union chief steward Amal Vincent explained in the press release tuition has increased by 2% for domestic students and 4% for international students. Fees for undergraduate students have increased over 200% over the past twenty years, making it three times more expensive than it was in the 1990s. 

“As tuition increases the campus community changes. The most marginalized students are excluded and on top of the list are international students,” Guvendik said. 

Guvendik explained students are “dealing with mental health issues because of financial burdens and fear of being kicked out of school because of not being able to pay tuition.” 

Several students spoke at the rally. “It was amazing seeing all of these students unite against injustice,” Guvendik said. “We’re uniting in our struggles saying we need to do something about this.

“As a student here, tuition is more than just a number. It affects the everyday lives of students, especially international students [ . . . ] It’s so hard to make ends meet when you’re an international student working part-time,” said Guvendik.

For international students in Canada that are looking to work part-time, there is a work limit of 20 hours per week during regular school semesters. International students can work full-time throughout scheduled breaks between semesters. 

SFU undergraduate student Rea Chatterjee stated in the press release that with the cost of living in Metro Vancouver on the rise, “basic expenses such as housing and food make it nearly impossible for students to save money and start planning for life after university.”

They further noted, “Governments and post-secondary educational institutions have a responsibility to provide the public with quality education without having to break our backs to afford it.”

SFU vice-president academic and provost Catherine Dauvergne said in an email statement to The Peak, “We recognize the increasing cost pressures that everyone is facing with inflation and the rising costs of housing [ . . . ] We encourage SFU students who need support to contact the Financial Aid and Awards Office to discuss available options.”

Dauvergne noted, “Student affordability is an ongoing priority for SFU and something we continue to address in partnership with student groups and our government partners.”

Tuition Freeze Now plans to attend the 2022 BC Budget Consultation to advocate for the need to fund accessible education. “We are not cash cows and we refuse to be cash cows,” Guvendik stated.

To find out more about TFN’s campaign, visit their website.