University of Saskatchewan students are demanding a free education.
Participants of this morning's #RedSpring Rally, which is taking place across Canada, are protesting rising tuition fees and student debt.
'My education is not getting better, so why are my tuition fees getting higher?" - Ata Merat
They say a university education isn't accessible for enough people, and those students who choose to take out loans are becoming crippled by debt. The protesters are calling for free post-secondary schooling for all, as well as forgiveness of student debt and more student representation in university governance.
"Right now we're paralyzing the majority of students because they're forced to pay student debt after graduation," said Izabela Vlahu, a PhD student and one of the protest organizers.
Struggling to pay
According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan graduates had $12,207 of debt in 2011 and 2012, which is the third highest in the country.
In addition, tuition fees in 2014 also rose 3.3 per cent from the previous year. Undergraduate students paid $5,959 in tuition fees on average, compared to $5,767 the previous year, according to Statistics Canada.
Ata Merat understands this first hand. He told CBC News paying tuition is a challenge. Merat is a third year international student studying electrical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan and is from Iran.
When he began school in 2011, tuition was about $14,000. Now he said it's about $20,000, plus interest. Merat said he works long hours, and can't access support from his parents because of sanctions on their bank in Iran.
"I'm currently taking five classes, five labs, and working 40 hours a week. During the summer I work 70-80 hours a week to pay my tuition fees off," Merat said.
"[My tuition] is increasing every year, but my salary is not increasing," Merat said. "My education is not getting better, so why are my tuition fees getting higher?"
Amanda Bestvater was one of the student organizers and speakers at the rally. She said the protest is a step in the right direction.
"It's just been a very healthy and hopeful acknowledgement that there are things we could be doing differently and things we should be doing differently," Bestvater said. "People are rallying to raise awareness and start a conversation about where we could go from here, what we could do differently."