While the students of Medicine Hat College did not participate in the protests on campuses across Alberta on October 29th, this does not mean that students are lacking in struggles.
The protests primarily focused on the rising cost of tuition and increasing budget cuts at post-secondary institutions, forcing students to pay more for a lesser experience. While MHC was fortunate to avoid the worst of the cuts, said Students’ Association of MHC President Veronica Yeoman, the price of tuition is an ongoing issue.
“I think tuition has always been and always will be a concern. Of course tuition, especially depending on your organization or whatnot, is extremely high, and can be very hard for some students to meet,” said Yeoman. “Overall, we haven’t seen, you know, a very specific correlation directly to tuition saying it’s too high or anything. But the one thing that we’ve really heard from our students is we’d like to see the rolling average of the tuition, we ask students, we’re looking for the stability and the predictability and the dependability of knowing what our tuition will cost in the near future, as well as closer to the end of our program. A lot of the protests today are regarding the budget and funding cuts as well to the institution. Medicine Hat College was extremely lucky to receive a smaller portion of that cut. But of course understand the fears and the concerns of the students from the larger institutions.”
Overall, and largely due to the pandemic there have been less faces on campus, said Yeoman, which may contribute to not seeing a spike in the use of student assistance services such as the food bank.
What the Student’s Association have noticed, however, is a more consistent use of the campus food bank, an unusual break in pattern.
“This year, compared to last year and the year before, it’s just been more of a steady use, we’ve seen students coming every month for the food bank use, where typically we’ve had a lot of students use it just before student loans come in,” said Yeoman. “And then the loans are able to help them kind of throughout the rest of their fees. But so we’ve had more steady usage in the food bank, but not overall usage.”
This may suggest that students may be relying on aid more than before, said Yeoman, or that the student loans received may not be able to cover necessities.
“Some of the other supports that I find are that students are really seeing in regards to the cost cuts, and everything is, of course, just the counseling in mental health,” said Yeoman. “We have a great set of counselors on campus here that we have access to. But they’re just extremely steady, and they’re very busy. And so we’ve seen a lot of use from students connecting with our counselors and our mental health resources in that aspect. Yep, most likely with the struggles of just up COVID. And then the finances are just one of those added difficulties.”
Many students have mentioned that it’s increasingly difficult to find time with the counsellors, which Yeoman believes is simply because their time is completely booked.
“Best of luck to all those, all those institutions that are protesting today. Like I said, we were fortunate to not get a large cut. And so I totally understand where they’re coming from, you know, just best of luck in their protest. And as a student group, and as student leaders in the whole Alberta, you know, I hope we’re able to address some of these issues like the budget cuts and the tuition funding for our students moving forward,” said Yeoman.
Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prairie Post East