Students at North Island College protest high tuition fees

NORTH ISLAND COLLEGE student Omer Tufail beats on the van representing student debt during Wednesday
NORTH ISLAND COLLEGE student Omer Tufail beats on the van representing student debt during Wednesday's rally at the Comox Valley campus.
— image credit: Renée Andor

North Island College (NIC) students beat up a van representing student debt as college and community groups cheered them on at a rally Wednesday.
"It's great," Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) representative at NIC student union Savannah McKenzie said at the rally. "We have a total mix of students, faculty and people from the community so that's always a great turnout because we know we are reaching a wide population here in the community."
Music blared from speakers as students showed up outside the Discovery Hall at NIC's Comox Valley campus at 11:30. As soon as it was time to take turns beating in an old van decorated to represent student debt, students lined up to take their frustrations out on it.
The van, donated by Comox Valley Auto Recyclers, had the glass and fluids removed beforehand for safety reasons.
The rally was about more than swinging a bat at a van — it was part of the CFS National Day of Action, and rallies were held at other NIC campuses, as well as Vancouver Island University, Camosun College and other institutions across the country.
According to McKenzie, the aim is for government to help make post-secondary schooling more financially viable for students.
"I'm hoping that both the provincial and federal government will take action and react to our movement," said McKenzie, "hopefully by tuition fee freezes, softening the taxation of student loans and increasing funding to public institutions back to 85 per cent rather than 60."
The students weren't alone in their rally; representatives from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Council of Canadians and the NIC Faculty Association (NICFA) spoke on students' behalf, and a statement from North Island MLA Claire Trevena was read.
Gwyn Frayne, from the Comox Valley chapter of the Council of Canadians, spoke about her post-secondary experience.
"When I went to university I was able to cover the costs by working in the summer and over the year," said Frayne. "Now, I'm not even sure that my grandkids can go to college, and that is not right."
NICFA president Shirley Ackland said she was proud to support students at the rally and pointed out that some students come out of college or university with more debt than she paid for her first house.
"You should not have to mortgage your futures to get an education," she told students.
"We need to remember and acknowledge in this community and the broader community that it's educated people that run our communities that lead our country, and the more debt we pile on their shoulders the less able they are to do that," Ackland told the Record after her speech. "That is so short-sighted; it is so wrong."

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