February 18, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 77  

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Raise tuition: students
UBC group counter-protests

By Allison Buchan-Terrell
Gazette Staff

A group of students at the University of British Columbia are staging counter-protests in defense of tuition increases.

Joel McLaughlin, the president of the UBC Young Conservatives, led the counter-protests in response to protests led by the Canadian Federation of Students to freeze tuition fees. “Anytime there will be a CFS protest, we will be there to counter that,” he said.

They are not necessarily defending tuition increases, he explained, but added that tuition has been frozen for six years which caused severe underfunding. If tuition was frozen now it would hurt future generations of students, McLaughlin said.

“Taxpayers already subsidize university students’ education, and the question is how much is enough?” he said.

Tuition increases bring better education, and if tuition is decreased the quality of education goes down, McLaughlin said, adding he has seen the positive impact of increased tuition translate into smaller classes at UBC.

“People who argue for tuition going up [argue it] increases quality,” said Lucas Schuller, BC campaign co-ordinator for CFS.

Schuller stated that as costs rise, the funding for education should come from the government and not individuals in the form of tuition hikes. “A lot of institutions are increasing [tuition] again.” he said. “[At] UBC we are running on a campaign of going against tuition increases.”

“[There is] a silent majority of students who don’t agree with the CFS,” McLaughlin said, noting students at the counter-protest were not all Young Conservatives.

Schuller cited the platform of the Ontario Liberal government, as inspiration for the CFS’ initiatives in B.C., pointing to the CFS’ successful lobbying of the B.C. government to freeze tuition in 1995.

“It would be nice if [the tuition freeze] could be implemented,” said Stephen Yantzi, president of the Progressive Conservative Association at Western, adding the Liberals are having trouble keeping their election promises.

Asked to comment on the actions of UBC Young Conservatives, Yantzi said “I can’t comment on what they are doing.”

“I would say a five to 10 per cent [increase] would be fair,” McLaughlin said. He admitted this is lower than some universities are forecasting, which is in the range of 15 to 20 per cent increases.

McLaughlin advocates for government policy to cap tuition, while creating an education cost index similar to the consumer price index to reflect the cost of education. “This is a far more sustainable process,” he said.



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