High school students face up to reality check

EDMONTON (CUP)—While listening to a presentation Friday from the University of Alberta (U of A) Students’ Union Executive on the costs of post-secondary education, Ross Sheppard High School student Kathleen Jackson suddenly realized a degree in medicine would soon cost her more than $10,000 a year.

“It kind of depressed me a little bit,” she said. “I wanted to go to BC for Bible college next year, and then to U of A for the rest of [my degree], in kinesiology. But it’s just going to be so expensive. After this presentation, I didn’t realize how expensive.”

Her reaction is what the students’ union hopes to reproduce on a wide scale to galvanize the fight against rising post-secondary costs.

Sponsored by the Council for Alberta University Students (CAUS), the provincial universities’ lobby group, Students’ Union vice-presidents Kail Ross and Anand Sharma, accompanied by CAUS coordinator Scott Winder, and Students’ Union student affairs coordinator Mariel Dagot, will speak at 20 high schools across north-central Alberta this week to inform young students of the realities of post-secondary costs.

It’s the incoming students, says CAUS, who will deal with the fee hikes set from this year.

The tour is important to let students know they can take action even now, noted Debbie Jabbour, Athabasca University student union president.

“[Post-secondary accessibility] is an issue touching all of us. Everyone needs more access to education, not just kids in high school, but their parents, those in grade school,” said Jabbour.

“They have to know they can go anywhere when they come out of high school, and they need to start fighting for their right to be educated,” she added.

U of A Students’ Union President Mike Hudema brought the idea of a high-school tour to CAUS after the Jan. 17 U of A tuition decision. That day, considered a mixed success for the students’ union, the U of A Board of Governors approved a 6.9 per cent base tuition increase and implemented differential fees for law, medicine and the MBA program.

Though the tuition decision was made, Hudema felt work could still be done.

So Hudema, Sharma and Ross set off on a week-long tour in February, hitting 15 schools in southern Alberta. Student representatives from Athabasca University, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge joined the group for some stops.

This time, the northern excursion will also hit MLA constituency offices to discuss student issues. The group will also be joined by Athabasca University student representatives for select dates.

Sharma expects student response to be as good as on the southern tour.

“One teacher [from Lethbridge] called me the other day, saying students are doing a presentation based on our presentation,” he said.

“They really enjoyed it, supposedly, and they asked for all the info we had.”

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