VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With most classes being held online this year because of COVID-19, the Canadian Federation of Students says post-secondary institutions are charging for services and facilities students can’t use.
The federation’s deputy chairperson, Nicole Brayiannis, says the fees are an added burden on young people who have been left behind throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ultimately, what it comes down to is students don’t want to be paying — and shouldn’t be paying — for services that they can not access,” she says.
“Students are extremely frustrated and disappointed with the lack of support that they’ve received throughout the pandemic.”
Brayiannis says the fees compound other costs students are facing, including tuition increases, inadequate grants, and unequal access to government supports amid the pandemic.
“The Canadian Emergency Student Benefit was only at $1,250 a month compared to the $2,000 for all other Canadians,” she says.
“International students were completely left out of all response support.”
The federation acknowledges the switch to online learning has saddled institutions with an unexpected cost, but argues students shouldn’t be left to foot the bill.
“Ultimately, this comes down to a larger systemic issue about the lack of public funding that exists for post-secondary institutions.”
The looming spectre of student debt is an added stress, according to Brayiannis.
“We’re really in a financial debt crisis for post-secondary education for students, and now especially where students weren’t able to access summer employment, which is so heavily relied upon for many individuals. This is just going to further indebt them in the future,” she says.
“Students are already taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt, which is only going to further inhibit the ability of individuals to be able to participate in the economy and really help rebuild Canada moving out of the pandemic.”
Universities Canada spokeswoman Brenna Baggs says universities need to be well-resourced to sustain their long-term ability to serve and educate students.
Baggs says the hope is that facilities and services are going to be up and running again in the next semester or the year after.
With files from The Canadian Press