Volume 95, Issue 74

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
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Day of Action, B.C. style

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Day of Action, B.C. style

Despite last week's national Day of Action – which called for a tuition freeze across the country – British Columbia's Liberal government has announced plans to end a six-year tuition freeze and deregulate tuition.

While tuition fees in B.C. have traditionally been amongst the country's lowest, the province now joins the ranks of many other provinces, including Ontario.

From an Ontario perspective, it is perhaps difficult to sympathize with the "plight" of the B.C. student.

Prior to this decision, medical school costs for a student in B.C. were $3,740 per year, while in Ontario, medical school tuition can run upwards of $14,000 per year. To many, it would appear this new tuition increase, which is at the discretion of universities and could bring the cost of medical school in B.C. over $12,000, is only meant to bring B.C.'s fees closer to the national average.

Although the rise seems to bring B.C.'s medical school tuition more on par with the rest of the country's medical schools, the increase is quite sudden and dramatic – approximately a 300 per cent hike.

When there is such a serious demand for doctors in this country, it is a mistake to make medical education difficult to obtain. Moves like this by governments seem only to encourage the great "Brain Drain,' which continues to push educated and able Canadians south of the border.

This policy is a threat, not only to medical students, but to all university students in B.C.. Such a drastic change will leave many out of luck, particularly students who have not had time to save up for the next academic year. Moreover, students already enrolled in programs may have to take time off to save more money or worse, drop out.

Although the national Day of Action was a worthwhile wake-up call to governments, it is easy to be discouraged by this latest decision.

B.C.'s provincial government waited less than one week after those protests to make a move that is a complete turn around from their post-election statement that education was a top priority.

This is a symbolic loss for supporters of heavily regulated tuition. Now students on the "left coast" can look forward to a future of uncertainty. If it is possible to raise fees 300 per cent in one year, what will fees be in five years?

If fees increase much higher, many people could be barred from gaining higher education. It is wrong for governments to allow universities to set their own fees because schools too often seek profit and not the best interests of the average student.

It will take some time to see if this move pays off politically for the B.C. government. However, it is clear this is not a positive situation for those interested in a system that values the mind over the pocket book.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002