Northwest Community College students get free food at a mock soup kitchen to protest government inaction on tuition rates.

Northwest Community College students get free food at a mock soup kitchen to protest government inaction on tuition rates.

Students hold mock soup kitchen to protest tuition costs

Students at Northwest Community College held a student debt soup kitchen on Wednesday last week as part of a protest against government inaction on reducing the student debt load, increasing tuition fees and, to a lesser extent, the recent cuts to student aid programs in the new 2011 provincial budget that was announced the day before.

Students at Northwest Community College held a student debt soup kitchen on Wednesday last week as part of a protest against government inaction on reducing the student debt load, increasing tuition fees and, to a lesser extent, the recent cuts to student aid programs in the new 2011 provincial budget that was announced the day before. All of the event’s organizers greeted fellow students wearing prisoner-like orange jumpsuits  and served up out bowls of Nisga’a Stew with a petition on the side. “I’m a prisoner. They won’t let me escape from my student debt,” said one of the protest organizers, Alex Van Vianen, in her bright orange jumpsuit. According to Vianen they’re looking for interest to be taken off student loans and a freeze on tuition increases. The student union says that tuition fees at the community college have doubled in the past decade. Vianen admits that there are times when schools may need to raise tuition in order to increase revenues, but says that the money should come in the form of government support and not by forcing students into more debt.“We need government to fill that gap and provide all the support that teachers, students and small colleges need, especially in the Northwest.”In the highlights of its new provincial budget, the Liberal government points out that over the past 10 years it has increased funding to post-secondary schools by 36 per cent, and this year funding was increased marginally from last year to $1.88-billion.What the government didn’t highlight was the fact Student Aid B.C.’s budget is being slashed by $34-million. This worries college student and single mother N’Donna Russell.“I plan to go to grad school in the next six years to get a masters in education in counseling, and if they continue with these cuts I’m kind of worried about how I’ll be able to pay for it, especially in grad school when the tuition rates become higher,” says Russell. The Liberal government has been advertising its new budget as a sensible one for a province still finding itself in a recession and that the province needs to make cuts somewhere in order to save money.  “I think you look at the other side of that, if you were to look at how much the province would have made if they didn’t cut corporate taxes, it would have been enough to prevent cuts to student aid,” says another event organizer, Mikael Jenssen. The petition forms signed by students who came to the soup kitchen will be added to the ongoing campaign by the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students called, “education shouldn’t be a debt sentence.”