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Student debt rising

by Archives January 9, 2002
Low income families have a harder time of getting into university, said a Statistics Canada report released last month.
According to CSU researcher Dave Bernans, students at Concordia are among those feeling the increased financial burden intrinsic to higher education..
Along with a rise in student fees student debt has also increased tremendously in recent years, said the report. In 1990, students had a debt of an average of 8 thousand dollars. Today, student debt averages up to 25 thousand dollars. Making student debt rise by three times.
“Student fees have gone up especially for out-of-province students,” said Bernans. He added that this is in spite of a 1999 promise from Concordia to invest 20 per cent of all new funding into reducing the tuition fee.
According to Sabine Friesinger chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Quebec Component, tuition is not the only problem facing today’s university students.
She said the current statistics regarding school fees fail to take into account important numbers. “One of the fees that the statistics do not show is the administration’s fees that students have to pay,” says Friesinger.
“Those fees have gone up at Concordia from three dollars per credit in the school year of 1998-1999 to nine dollars per credit today,” said Bernans. “Students also pay the Capital Campaign fee, which is eleven dollars per credit. For a full-time student, that’s up to 300$ a year.”
“The Capital Campaign fee,” continued Bernans, “is a forced donation that goes into a private corporation responsible for a funding drive for the school. But it’s not really a real donation since you can’t get a tax exemption receipt for it. And we don’t know where it is invested.”
All of these new fees can be traced back to 1994, when the provincial government made cuts in its educational budget. Institutions of higher learning saw their governmental funding reduce greatly. “In turn, the universities are downloading the cost onto the individuals,” says Friesinger.
“It’s a question of priority,” added Friesinger. “A question as to where we’re putting our money. The government is not reinvesting in education.”
“School fees [at Concordia] have skyrocketed from the 1997 to 1998 school year,” said Bernans.
Friesinger foresees the societal repercussions of this problem. “The government is doing the minimal, and even less that that. Eventually, it will boomerang back to them. The quality of knowledge will continue to decrease and that will affect all levels of society.”

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