Volume 91, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 1, 1997



Zero tuition proposed by students

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

The Canadian Federation of Students has announced their desire for all tuition and ancillary fees to be completely eliminated but the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations does not agree.

In a document released yesterday, CFS explained their strategy for changing the current post-secondary structure in Canada. Brad Lavigne, national chairperson for CFS, said his organization wants to increase accessibility to post-secondary education regardless of socio-economic background.

If there is no tuition, he explained, everyone would have equal access to a university education without having to assume any debt load. "We have many barriers to our post-secondary education and one of these is financial," Lavigne said.

Hoops Harrison, national director of CASA, disagreed, saying free tuition is definitely not an attainable goal at the present time considering the financial strain the government is currently experiencing.

He explained $4 billion is collected from tuition every year and the government would have trouble getting this money by other means.

"People in government are going to shake their heads and say there's no use in talking to these people," Harrison said.

The current problem is that by next year, the amount of debt students will carry is, on average, $25,000, he said, adding CASA has successfully lobbied the government into changing the Canada student loan program.

Ministry of Education and Training spokesperson Karin Dillabough said Ontario is ranked fifth in loan forgiveness in Canada, meaning there are four other provinces with much stricter lending procedures. She added taxpayers currently carry a large burden for post-secondary education.

"There's no doubt that this government supports accessibility," Dillabough said. "We also believe students should pay their fair share for education."

Western's Society of Graduate Students, which is a member of CFS, VP-external Kelly Barrowcliffe said this is not a new concept for CFS, adding their primary focus has centred around accessibility for post-secondary education.

Cameron Norman, VP-external of the Wilfred Laurier Graduate Students' Association, which is a member of CFS, said he supports the CFS idea but admitted it is a bold request. This announcement may be a way for CFS to achieve their goal of bringing concerns surrounding student debt to the attention of the government, Norman said.

Lavigne said the Canadian government signed an international covenant in 1976 which said they would attempt to provide post-secondary education for no cost.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997