Bronte Renwick-Shields is fed up.
The student is in her fourth year of studying political science and applied ethics at the University of Victoria. Throughout the years, Renwick-Shields has worked two to three jobs at the time to pay for her eduction and keeping up with rising tuition fees.
Despite her hard work, she has accumulated more than $30,000 in student debt, with one more year of studies still to go. She also hopes to attend grad school, but said it keeps looking further out of reach.
“It shows that it’s not that students aren’t working hard, it’s that our education system is inaccessible to students who are working, full time,” Renwick-Shields said, adding her family didn’t have the funds to help pay for her education. “It’s really difficult to look at your future and imagine that much debt on your shoulders.”
Renwick-Shields is one of hundreds of post-secondary students who marched from Centennial Square to the B.C. legislature on Wednesday to protest the rising cost of tuition fees and unsustainable amount of student debt.
The average post-secondary student graduates with roughly $35,000 in debt, while interest rates on student loans are 2.5 per cent above prime. B.C. is the only province in Canada without a needs-based grants system for students, according to co-organizer Kenya Rogers, a third year political science student at UVic.
“Post-secondary education is continually made more and more unaccessible for the majority of young Canadians,” Rogers said.
With the upcoming provincial election in 2017, organizers want politicians to put student issues into platforms and urge the provincial government to freeze tuition fees immediately, increase core funding and progressively eliminate tuition fees in B.C. over the next 10 years.
Federally, organizers are calling for the government to implement a publicly-funded post-secondary education act, modelled after the Canada Health Act.
Seamus Wolfe, who was at the rally, is completing his masters in political science. The new father is juggling school, finding work and looking after his child.
“Starting off your family life already in huge amount of debt makes things like owning a home totally out of reach,” he said. “It’s absurd that I’m in such a huge amount of debt and I’m already starting to put aside money for my two-year-old daughter’s education. It’s just mind boggling.”
It is estimated student debt across the country is more than $15 billion.
This was the first rally to protest rising student debt in Victoria in the last five years.