Ben McTaggart

Ben McTaggart

Nanaimo post-secondary students protest debt with mock ceremony

NANAIMO – VIU students stage wedding to showcase marriage to debt.

The Vancouver Island University Students’ Union hosted a wedding last week symbolizing the years of commitment to paying student loans for post-secondary education.

Alec Patterson, the ‘groom,’ married ‘student loan contract’ Ben McTaggart in a ceremony performed in front of VIU’s Malaspina Theatre, followed by a hotdog and wedding cake reception Thursday.

“We’re trying to highlight the four pillars, which are reducing tuition fees, increased institution funding, eliminating interest on student loans, as a whole, and bringing back a needs-based grant system in B.C. because we’re the only province in Canada that does not have a needs-based grant system, which is ridiculous,” said Patterson, students’ union external relations relations.

Patrick Barbosa, students’ union student advocate and campaign organizer, said the B.C. government now provides less than 50 per cent of VIU’s operations costs, student loan debt is at an all-time high, and the government has provided no new money for opportunity and jobs for students and their children.

“So we’re looking for the government to take post secondary education more seriously and reinvest in opportunity for young British Columbians,” Barbosa said.

Andrew Wilkinson, advanced education minister, said in a written statement that B.C. students generally pay less than one-third of actual post secondary education costs and the government’s tuition limit policy, introduced in 2005, has limited tuition increases to two per cent per year since.

Wilkinson also said nearly 70 per cent of public post-secondary students don’t take out government student loans, but grants and loans encourage access to post-secondary education and supports and programs are available to help reduce student debt for those who do.

“Undergraduate tuition in British Columbia is the fourth lowest in Canada – more than $800 less than the Canadian average,” Wilkinson said. “Tuition fees in British Columbia went up by two per cent over last year, less than the national average increase of 3.3 per cent.

“This is the ninth-straight year that tuition increases in B.C. have remained below the national average increase.”

Provincial operating grants to VIU increased by 36.7 per cent to $49.7 million in 2014-15 from $36.4 million in 2001-02.

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