As we approach the end of summer break, university students are preparing to return back to school. But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, universities are delivering the majority of their courses online. This means that students won’t have the same access to extracurriculars, counseling, and after-class discussion with professors. However, tuition costs are not being lowered to reflect this change. Universities are making students pay thousands of dollars for resources they will not receive.
Having classes online will greatly impact the quality of education. Research has shown that, on average, students tend to struggle more with online classes than they do in person. Online courses are simply no substitute for face-to-face communication. Staring at Google Doc presentations and Zoom meetings for hours on end is not as effective as learning in a classroom setting, which allows for spontaneous questions and discussion. The experience won’t be nearly the same.
However, universities refuse to budge on tuition rates. In fact, many universities are doing the opposite and have already announced tuition increases despite these cutbacks. To name just a few, Dalhousie University and the University of Manitoba are raising average tuition by upwards of three per cent. The University of Calgary is raising tuition by five per cent for returning students and seven per cent for domestic students. The University of Alberta and the North Alberta Institute of Technology are both hiking average tuition by seven per cent. Students are going to be paying more for drastically reduced services compared to what they’ve received in previous semesters. This is especially severe considering the financial consequences that the pandemic has had for young people. Seven out of 10 new and returning students have said that the pandemic has negatively affected their summer employment. Thirty per cent say that they may change plans about enrolling in post-secondary education in the fall. The situation is especially dire for international students, who did not qualify for any of the federal government’s relief programs and already pay, on average, five times the tuition of domestic students. Along with that, many aren’t being allowed back into Canada, which means that they won’t be able to complete their studies despite classes already being delivered online.
This level of exploitation even reaches into one of the federal government’s so-called student aid programs. The Canada Student Service Act (CSSG) has recently come under fire as a result of the Trudeau family’s long-time relationship with the charity originally being contracted to deliver it, but that’s hardly the only thing wrong with the program. The CSSG gives students $1,000 for every 100 hours volunteered this summer to fight COVID-19, to a maximum of $5,000. This amounts to $10 per hour, which is below minimum wage in every Canadian jurisdiction. In other words, the government is taking advantage of struggling students to push them into jobs that violate its own labour regulations.
Things don’t have to be this way. While students are being sucked dry, the Trudeau Liberals have been pumping $700 billion worth of public funds into the country’s largest banks and corporations. With that kind of money being put into universities, we wouldn’t just be able to lower tuition, but provide post-secondary education completely for free. But unfortunately, this kind of swindling is par for the course. So long as economic power is kept within the hands of a small minority, it will always be used to maintain their own wealth. The government will always go so far as to rob money out of the pockets of working students if it means protecting corporate profits.