Nfld. & Labrador

'It's the futures of the province': Students march to oppose MUN tuition hike

Dozens of people took to the streets of downtown St. John's on Saturday to voice their concerns over a tuition hike at Memorial University announced last week.

Financial impact will be felt instantly, says international student

Students march down Water Street in St. John's on Saturday to oppose Memorial University's announced tuition hike. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Dozens of people took to the streets of downtown St. John's on Saturday to voice their concerns over a tuition hike at Memorial University announced last week.

The rally, organized by the Canadian Federation of Students, was about highlighting the different groups of people affected by an increase to tuition, according to Kat McLaughlin, the group's provincial chair.

Memorial announced on July 9 that it would be raising tuition to $6,000 per year for Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian students. Tuition for international students will rise to $20,000 per year.

Current students, as well as those who start university in the fall, will pay a four per cent increase in tuition per year until 2026, rather than the announced tuition increase.

"This is going to make the university the third most expensive for international students in Atlantic Canada. It's drastically raising the cost for folks across the province and across the world, really," McLaughlin told CBC News during the rally.

Kat McLaughlin, Newfoundland and Labrador chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, says the proposed tuition hike will hurt students both near and far. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

"We're hearing from folks actually from around the world that this is really being viewed as an end to accessible education in the country. So we're seeing a massive outpouring."

The group also held a rally in June to voice their concerns, before the tuition hike was announced.

In the days following the announcement, McLaughlin said the CFS has heard from international students and families raising concerns that the money they've put aside for university will no longer be enough to study at Memorial.

"We're hearing from families who don't know what the future's going to look like for them," she said.

"This was an opportunity for folks to really get an education that wasn't accessible anywhere else, and I think those are the folks that are going to be shut out."

For international students like Fahmida Ahmed, who is also director of finance with the university's students' union, a four per cent tuition hike will be felt instantly.

"When we first came here, this was not something we were ready to pay for," she said. "That's almost like a month of rent for every student."

Fahmida Ahmed is the director of finance of Memorial University's students' union. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Walking through the streets of the downtown St. John's pedestrian mall, both Ahmed and McLaughlin say they hope the students' presence will send a message to officials.

"We want to show that folks are impacted by this; it's not just students and young people," McLaughlin said. "It's families, it's the futures of this province."

Ahmed said she hopes the university and the provincial government understand why students believe education is a right.

"It's a right for everyone, for international [students] and the locals," she said "Making it more accessible is what Canada needs."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Kyle Mooney


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