For the third year in a row, Dalhousie University is proposing a three per cent tuition increase. This will be the second tuition increase proposed during the pandemic, at a time when many students had hoped to see their tuition frozen, or even decreased.
“As a student right now, and for students coming in beginning their degrees, this is shocking and disappointing,” said Marie Dolcetti, a master’s student at Dalhousie University and the treasurer for Nova Scotia’s chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students.
“We’re seeing increases in tuition of three per cent but wages aren’t going up, and students are having trouble accessing work.”
Last year, as classes moved to online in the winter semester due to the pandemic, many universities across the country announced tuition increases, prompting petitions calling for a tuition freeze, but that never happened.
Students studying at Dalhousie have now spent nearly an entire year doing online classes, and many say they’re not getting the full value of their education.
“Since moving online, I think the quality of our education for what we’re paying for has decreased quite a bit,” said third-year student Alesha Dennis.
Dennis studies animal sciences at Dalhousie’s agricultural campus in Truro, and says normally the majority of her coursework would be lab-based — from dissections to animal feed analysis, her program is structured to be hands-on.
“What we’re looking at now, instead of doing hands-on labs is sometimes the profs will take videos of them doing it, sometimes we’ll just get to have a link to a YouTube video,” said Dennis.
“I feel my education has been compromised.”
In addition to the quality concerns, Dennis says the financial impact that many students are facing is a challenge and to see tuition increase at a time when many are already struggling feels unfair.
Dennis says she had a job with the government lined up for the summer, but due to the pandemic, things didn’t work out so she ended up working retail and making significantly less money than she had planned.
“I would like to see at least halting tuition (increases) until the effects of the pandemic are able to calm down.”
The Canadian Federation of Students says across the country students are feeling more stressed than ever, and reports of mental health concerns are on the rise.
“It’s been a really difficult year for students,” said Dolcetti.
“Students are having trouble accessing resources, resources aren’t available as they normally are, not to mention the financial stresses.”
In a statement, Dalhousie University says that tuition fees are essential to funding university programs, services and operations and defended the increase saying “tuition fees go up each year because the costs of delivering courses and operating the university increase, even during the pandemic.”
This is why the federation is calling for change to the overall system. They would like to see post-secondary education more heavily subsidized like in many European countries. The federation has been meeting with government officials this week to lobby for more investments in education.
“Post-secondary education should be invested in as a public good and should be funded so we’re making investments in young people and making investments in a future that is hopefully livable,” said Dolcetti.