‘More than students’

Tuition increase and fee deadlines leave U of W community struggling

Gabrielle Funk

Post-secondary students across Canada have been overwhelmed with challenges, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate poverty, mental-health issues, the housing crisis and overall quality of education. Many students have found themselves without work, without community and without support from their homes away from home – their universities.

University of Winnipeg (U of W) students are familiar with tuition increases, but many people enrolled for the 2021-22 academic year are significantly impacted by the 3.75 per cent tuition increase that was announced last spring.

In a statement released on May 10, University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) president Kiratveer Singh Hayer, said that “this tuition increase comes at a time when many students are already struggling financially due to the pandemic, and (it) will adversely affect the most vulnerable students, like low-income and international students.”

“We are all more than students,” Breanna Laggo, a fourth-year education student, says. “I think, for most of us, especially with this new emotional layer of worry on campus, the level of our capacity has changed, which also affects the level at which we can perform academically, socially and in the other ... areas in our life.”

Hayer explained to The Uniter that the UWSA runs programs to support students, such as giving 100 free desktop computers to students in partnership with Computers for Schools Manitoba (a program that will be available again this year), mental-health resources and the UWSA Food Hamper Program.

However, some students believe the U of W could do more to help.

“I am not sure what the university did to support students financially,” Laggo says. “I’m sure the university was/is facing an unprecedented financial situation, but so are their students, and we’re the ones that support them.”

Laggo says she is trying to “not be too harsh” on the university, because, “just like the rest of us, they were doing the best they could given the circumstances.” But for many students, the lack of support has left their academic career in jeopardy.

Post-secondary education in Manitoba appears to be becoming more exclusive, as the institutions continue to make decisions for students behind conference- room doors.

“These decisions create barriers for students to access education and place immense pressure on student unions, who are left to pick up the pieces and fill significant service gaps like food banks and childcare,” Alexandra Koslock, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba, says.

“Community organizations, student and faculty associations and student unions were left to support students throughout the pandemic due to insufficient federal and provincial support. The reality is some students have stepped away from pursuing their education simply to make ends meet for themselves and their families.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 16, 2021)

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