This month, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect plans for the fall at all education levels, students at NSCAD University in Halifax are worried the school will once again hike tuition for the fall semester.
The school’s student union, SUNSCAD, is calling on university government for a tuition freeze.
“Everyone is really considering just not coming back or taking a year off. It is very sad,” says Jacey Byrne, Vice President of Equity and Finance on SUNSCAD.
Byrne says the university’s average tuition, which is between $9,000 or $10,000 annually, is $2,000 higher than most arts universities in Canada.
“A lot of students feel like it’s a slap in the face, they feel like it’s completely disrespectful especially during a pandemic,” she tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.
The university has also moved its fall semester 2020-21 classes online, which Byrne says isn’t easy for a school that focuses on art, design and other hands-on courses.
“It’s all going to be online and then maybe in the winter they might have some social distanced studio time. But as an art university, it’s just not really viable for students to do all of their courses online,” says Byrne.
One of the things that made the student experience at NSCAD so unique was that professional studio time. “The thing that NSCAD does is, at least before the pandemic, they gave 24-hour access to the studios,” says Byrne. “So if you wanted to go in at 4:00 a.m. you could.”
But now those studios are closed due to the pandemic. Even if the professors develop adequate online curriculums, Byrne says it’s difficult for students who don’t have access to materials at home. “Students can’t really afford to have a studio in their homes,” she says.
Just last week, the school announced its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But Byrne says if fees increase again this year (they increased three per cent for the past few years), it will be especially hard for students of colour and minorities to access education.
“If you really are in solidarity with helping your Black and Indigenous and people of colour students, you need to kind of put your money where your mouth is,” she says.
The student union has set up an email for other students to send their complaints and thoughts. Bryne says SUNSCAD is primarily calling for a tuition freeze, but eventually, they hope to see tuition more on par with other schools.
“Moving forward I think obviously we’d love to see it lowered, but right now we just really need a freeze,” she says.