University of B.C. student union taking tuition complaint to United Nations

The University of B.C.’s student union has filed a complaint with the United Nations for what it says is our government’s failure to provide affordable post-secondary education.

“When Canada signed on to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they made a commitment to work toward free post-secondary education,” said Katrina Pacey, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society who is representing UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS).

“Instead, the government has increased tuition rates on an annual basis to what we say are exorbitant and unreasonable rates. For low income students, it is becoming very difficult, if not impossible, to attend (university).”

Tristan Markle, a recent UBC graduate, said he accrued more than $40,000 in debt as a student, and that he often had to work full-time to cover his tuition fees, which detracted from his education.

“The debt takes its toll,” he said, adding that the average B.C. student graduates $27,000 in debt. “(My) average monthly (loan) payment is comparable to rent.”

He added that financial barriers are the number one thing that prevents students from going to university or college.

Blake Frederick, president of the AMS, said student fees in B.C. have more than doubled since the tuition freeze was lifted in 2002.

“No person should be denied education due to a lack of financial resources,” he said. “Tuition and student debt loads continue to rise with no end in sight.”

The complainants are seeking better-regulated tuition rates, increased funding to schools so students don’t have to pay for overhead costs, and more resources for non-repayable grants and bursaries.

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