MUN, CNA students march in support of cheaper tuition in N.L.
Canadian Federation of Students leading National Student Day of Action across Canada
Despite tuition fees that are among the lowest in the country, Memorial University students took Confederation Building on Wednesday to ask for more.
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Dozens of post-secondary students in St. John's rallied at Memorial and Confederation Building on Wednesday, demanding in support of more funding and lower tuition for post-secondary education.
The protest, dubbed Free education: now, was part of a Canadian Federation of Students campaign — the National Student Day of Action — held across the country to pressure governments for increased funding.
And according to Alex Noel, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students N.L. (CFS-NL), one of the goals is to reduce and eliminate tuition fees.
"If the [provincial] government is saying the cupboards are bare, this is why this is also a national day of action," said Noel, explaining that the province can call on the federal government to hep.
"We're not just calling on the provincial government for funding but we're calling on the federal government to increase funding as well."
Keeping up the fight
Canadian students attending Memorial University pay about $2,550, which university administration says is among the lowest tuition in the country..
Still, representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students and Memorial University's student union say financial barriers remain for some prospective students, and free education would change that.
"Tuition fees make getting an education impossible for many people. Shame!" rallied Renata Lang.
One student who took in the demonstration said Newfoundland and Labrador's students have been successful in their political campaigns, and claimed students needed to keep up the pressure to stop tuition from creeping up.
In an economic downturn, the CFS-NL chairperson said it's important to increase funding for public services.
"Folks in the oil and gas industry who have been laid off really need access to college and university training in order to get the skills that they need to reattach to the labour market."
Government funding significant: Minister
Later Wednesday night, Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Advanced Education said the province's students face different circumstances than their Canadian counterparts.
He said students in the province get a lot of help from the provincial government, in subsidized education and in generous student aid grants.
Tuition: MUN the least expensive tuition in Canada. At $2550/yr, this is about 8% of the actual cost. NL taxpayers pay 80% ($25.5K/yr)—@Gerry_Byrne
Student aid: NL students from low & middle income families studying at MUN can receive $7700 in grants; 3x the amount of MUN's tuition—@Gerry_Byrne
Byrne said a "a broader province-wide dialogue [is] set to begin."
Flexibility granted to students attending
Ahead of the protest, the Memorial University Senate approved a motion proposed by the MUN Students' Union to encourage professors and instructors to grant leniency and flexibility for any students that choose to miss classes to attend the rally.
Rallies were also planned in Carbonear, Clarenville, Corner Brook, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City.
With files from Andrew Sampson