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All Out February 1st - Over 1,000 Take to Halifax Streets to Protest Rising Tuition, Decreased Education Funding

by Miles Howe

The following text is graciously reproduced from the original work "Education Is A Right!", which appears in its entirety at www.cpcml.ca.

On February 1, students across Canada will demonstrate for the right to education. Students at over 50 educational institutions from coast to coast are holding rallies, information booths, speakers' corners, teach-ins and other activities.

Students are fighting for the reduction and eventual elimination of tuition and ancillary fees at post-secondary institutions, the elimination of differential fees and increased funding from the federal government for education.

Over the last 20 years, the portion of university and college operating budgets which is funded by the public has decreased from 81 per cent to an average of 57 per cent. At the same time, tuition fees have increased from 14 per cent of operating funding to more than 35 per cent. Accounting for much of the remainder are research grants from private corporations, which have steadily increased in the same period. As private research grants increase, those private interests dictate what research can be carried out and what kind of personnel they require be educated or provided with training.

The need to oppose monopoly right and to defend the right to education which serves the youth and the society goes beyond restricting the "right" of the monopolies to treat post-secondary institutions as their private research and training facilities. The expropriation of the social wealth produced by Canadians to pay the monopolies also means that necessary social programs such as education are denied adequate funding and the burden is placed on individuals to indebt themselves or forgo higher education. Governments in service of the rich falsely present this misappropriation as a "scarcity of funds" to justify cuts to social programs or increases in tuition and other user fees.

Rising tuition and ancillary fees give rise to massive levels of student indebtedness. Students in Canada owe more than $14 billion in Canada Student Loans alone, with provincial student loans and private bank loans and credit card debt making the real figure much higher. Twelve per cent of students have loans from commercial lenders; the median amount borrowed is $6,000 per year.

While universities claim that they have no alternative but to increase tuition fees, this does not solve the problem and only perpetuates an unsustainable situation. As the Canadian Federation of Students points out, "Rising tuition fees are symptomatic of government underfunding, not a cure to solve the problem. Wherever tuition fees are allowed to increase, governments simply withdraw an equal portion of public funding." The post-secondary education system in a modern society like Canada requires that it be properly funded by governments. The fact that this basic requirement is not met creates instability for the teaching staff, researchers and students and is detrimental to the quality of education provided.

Canadians stand with students in demanding that the right to education be provided with a guarantee. Education is one of the claims people have on society by virtue of being human. The role of education is not just to provide a work force equipped with the skills required by the monopolies to attain maximum profits. It must concern itself with the level of culture and educational attainment of the society, which faces increasing complexities on both the technological and social front. Public education must be constantly expanded and developed to fulfil its role in developing that which makes us human. For the youth of Canada who are striving to have a bright future in which they can flourish and make their contribution to society, the right to education is indispensable.

Governments must increase funding for post-secondary education so that the high level of education required by the youth and the society is not left to chance or the financial wherewithal of the individual.



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