Photo © Courtesy of BC Federation of Students
Children are natural dreamers, a skill that is encouraged and nurtured throughout their school years. But when they leave school and begin seeking opportunities in post-secondary education, excited to make their dreams come true, they often come face-to-face with the realization that these dreams come with conditions and complexities that, for many, may not be achievable.
Tuition fees have skyrocketed over the last two decades, more than doubling since 2001, according to the BC Federation of Students. From 1990 to 2019, tuition fees across the country have increased by more than 336 per cent on average. Where average tuition fees were $2,500 in 2000, they were over $5,900 in 2019; the average cost of obtaining a degree has increased by over $13,700 in tuition fees alone. The reason for this is clear: Years of cuts and neglect have resulted in an underfunded system that makes up for funding on the backs of students and their families.
The BC Federation of Students, representing over 170,000 students at 15 colleges, universities, and institutes in all regions of British Columbia, is calling for a change so that the next generation of students can afford to dream big. Education should be accessible to all British Columbians.
The Federation voices students’ issues and concerns to the government while conducting in-depth research to support policy recommendations. Together, students and the Federation have been actively calling for the provincial government to review their funding model for B.C.’s public post-secondary sector. It’s a big step, but one that ensures equitable funding to the province’s institutions. Increasing tuition fees and high levels of student debt can only be alleviated if the education system is adequately funded, which has statistically not been the case.
In recent years, the proportion of public funding to B.C. colleges and universities has dropped to less than 44 per cent of total operating revenue, down from more than 80 per cent in the 1980s and more than 90 per cent in the 1970s. Tuition fee revenues now make up 48 per cent of institutions’ revenue, which surpasses the amount from government funding. This shows a massive divestment in public education for the current generation of students compared to the investment and support provided to college and university students in past decades. It’s an unequal playing field for today’s students and makes it seem like dreaming big is out of reach.
Between rising tuition fees and rapidly inflating housing and transportation costs, among other increased living costs, it’s clear that students are struggling. At the same time, wages have remained stagnant, and student financial assistance has not kept up with the increased need for monetary support. More than half of post-secondary students graduate with debt.
The future of B.C. depends on an educated, skilled workforce. Still, decades of underfunding have made it so much more difficult for young people to afford and attend post-secondary education.
Our public post-secondary education system needs to be made a priority to the B.C. government, complete with a renewed investment. With it, the government can freeze tuition fees at current levels and establish a plan to progressively reduce fees in the future. This will not only help make life more affordable for B.C. students and their families but will also show support for a new generation of students—a new generation of dreamers.
Last April, the BC NDP announced a funding review in response to the Federation’s calls to action, a major step in ensuring equitable funding to the province’s institutions. Our goal is to continue the fight for a properly funded education system that allows students to thrive.
Kids are dreamers. They love to read and invent stories. They love to build things, take them apart, and build them back again. They take care of their stuffed animals and create imaginative games with their toys. They are our future teachers, engineers, doctors, and scientists. As we encourage them to dream big, we need to ensure that it’s not only possible but achievable for those dreams to come true. Skyrocketing tuition fees are making it harder than ever to support our students, and that hurts all of us.
It’s time to invest in our future by investing in post-secondary education. Lobbying and research are only effective when students are actively engaged in campaigns to influence the decisions and policies of the government, so it’s up to all of us, past, present, and future students, to fight for the change we want to see.
Join us and encourage your MLA to support our recommendation for an additional $200 million in annual funding to be invested in B.C.’s post-secondary system by asking them to help ensure the government’s funding review redistributes funding more equitably throughout the province.
How can we tell the next generation that they can’t afford to dream? When it comes to British Columbia’s post-secondary system, we need to fund it and fix it now.
Learn more and take action at funditfixit.ca
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The BC Federation of Students run a number of campaigns aimed at making our schools and communities better and more equitable.