Proposed tuition hikes brought about 70 Mount Royal University students out to protest the provincial government’s education budget Oct. 9.
“We want them to know that students are no longer going to bear the burden of a lack of funding,” said Laurie Gaal, one of the event’s organizers.
The proposed hikes would affect three of the school’s departments – nursing, business, and science – and could mean a tuition increase of up to 30 per cent for new and transferring students.
After the protesters finished a short march around campus, a rally was held in front of the East Gate featuring speeches by members of the Students’ Association’s executive committee.
“We’re here to send a message to the government that Mount Royal has been underfunded since it became a university,” Zoe Slusar, vice-president student life, told the crowd.
Slusar blamed the tuition hikes on a lack of funding from the provincial government, something she sees as a continuation of problems the school has faced since it became a university in 2009.
“There has been money promised every year that has never been fully received,” Slusar told The Press.
The president of the executive committee, Erik Queenan, also talked to the gathered students about what the day’s protest represented.
“I am extremely proud to say that we are the first school to stand up, not only to the administration, but to the government, and make sure that our voice is heard that we’re not going to stand for these increases,” Queenan said to the students.
Although the rally featured speeches from members of the executive committee, as well as from Gaal herself. It ended not long after its 12:15 p.m. start time.
“It was good, but it ended a little bit early, obviously,” said Gaal.
Daniel Blanchard, a volunteer at the event, says they have been holding these protests for the past two years, but “it’s been quiet for a while.”
“There are cultural factors. In Alberta, we’re still trying to build a culture of activism,” said Blanchard.
“For a lot of people, this is their first demonstration.”
We want them to know that students are no longer going to bear the burden of a lack of funding. – Laurie Gaal
Gaal herself finds the prospect of increased tuition looming in the future.
“Considering that I’ll be a new business student next year, yes, I’ll be directly affected,” she said.
“We’re just students. We represent the student body.”
A petition was passed around at the rally asking the provincial government to do a thorough investigation of Alberta’s post-secondary funding, and the group has also hosted the petition online.