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NSCAD students threaten to drop out of school if tuition rises

Students left dropout forms on president’s window in response to proposed 37% tuition hike

NSCAD students protested inside the office of NSCAD President Dianne Taylor-Gearing
NSCAD students protested inside the office of NSCAD President Dianne Taylor-Gearing   Steve Large

Dozens of NSCAD University students occupied university president Dianne Taylor-Gearing’s office on Thursday and are threatening to drop out of the school in protest over what they say is a proposed 37 per cent tuition hike.

The student union said the tuition increase would raise student fees from $6360 to $8700 a year by 2018.

Vice-president external of the Student Union of NSCAD University (SUNSCAD), Jade Peek, said the students can’t afford the increase and are calling on the university’s board of governors to find another way.

“Enough is enough,” she said in a press release. “Our students cannot afford this hike.”

Grace Stratton, a counclilor for SUNSCAD, said the tuition hike would be devastating for the university.

“If the institution experiences a large loss of students, the financial repercussions are going to be huge,” she said. “We think this tuition reset is going to do much more harm than good.”

The release says the vote is being held by a secret teleconference. Students and the general public are barred from the vote.

“We feel very disrespected,” Stratton said. “They have been trying to exclude us from these conversations and we feel extremely frustrated.”

Once students arrived at the office, the school was put on lockdown. Only students and faculty with key cards could enter the building.

Marilyn Smulders, director of communications for NSCAD, said the protest was peaceful and she could not comment further at this time.

Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s minister of labour and advanced education, said NSCAD students could pay for four courses and take five or six without any additional cost in the past, but going forward, students will have to pay for all of the courses they take.

“I know this is a big change for students but the university can no longer afford to offer free courses,” she said in an email. “As I’ve said in the past, there are no easy answers. I hope that all members in the university community – students, faculty and staff – will come together to work through this difficult business planning process.”

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, about 70 students and faculty met with president Taylor-Gearing to discuss the vote.

Students and faculty at NSCAD protested a proposed tuition hike on Wednesday
Students and faculty at NSCAD protested a proposed tuition hike on Wednesday   Courtesy: Grace Stratton

Stratton said the students asked questions and Taylor-Gearing gave the best answers she could. The students want the final vote will be in a physical space with everyone present and for the university to allow NSCAD students to attend.

According to Stratton, Taylor-Gearing is deliberating the possibility but has not agreed to it as of yet. The board of governors will continue to deliberate the tuition increase over teleconference Friday and Monday.

“It’s really tough to say [what’s going to happen next],” Stratton said. “We’re waiting for [the president] to respond to our demands. I’m not sure…what her response will be.”