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49 years of cuts at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara College

Students at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara College protest 49 years of cuts
Bradley Hughes

February 26, 2019

This year snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara College is celebrating it’s 49th anniversary. The choice of an odd year to celebrate reflects the college’s location on 49th Ave in Vancouver, but more importantly it allows the college to hit up corporate donors a year before several other colleges and universities in BC turn 50.

The anniversary celebration are a good time to take stock of the college’s history. For students and workers it has been 49 years of declining living standards.

When the college opened in 1970, the province funded 90% of the operating costs, today that has slipped down to only 30%.

Tuition fees at Langara have increased from $20 / course for everyone to $390 for domestic students and $2360 for international students. Accounting for inflation this is a tripling of costs for domestic students and an increase of nearly twenty times for international students.

In the 1970-71 calendar the college estimated that students would spend $75 on books (which is $492 today). Now, the Langara website cost calculator estimates that a first year science student will spend $900 on books. Books have increased more than 80% above inflation.

All students in 1970 could pay for one course with 13 hours of work at minimum wage. Today, domestic students have to work 30 hours to pay for a course and international students have to work 185 hours at minimum wage. This means that working part-time, international students need to work for half a semester to pay tuition fees for a single course. Which is before deductions and leaves nothing for books, food, lodging.

For the instructors at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara today’s wages on average are 3% below the rate in 1970. But the amount of the wage cut depends on where you are on the wage scale. At some levels on the wage scale instructors are paid now the equivalent of only 11 months of 1970 wages; they are working a month for free each year.

Not just education funding cuts

Public spending this century in BC was at its peak in the final year of the NDP government in 2001/2002 when it was just over 22% of GDP. It then declined under the Liberals down to around 18.5%. The NDP’s first two budgets have kept it close to that level.

To put that in context, a 2.5% of GDP decline represents over $9 billion. A $9 billion increase to BC’s government spending of $53 billion would be a 16% increase in spending across the board. And that is just to replace the cuts since 2001.

That decline in spending was due to tax cuts to the 1% and their corporations. Tax cuts that the NDP have no plans to challenge.

Where is the funding coming from?

Overwhelmingly the funding cuts have been made up with by tuition fees and at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara the majority of fees are paid by international students:

Although international students make up only a third of students, but they pay three quarters of the tuition fees collected at the college.

71% of IE students come from India and China. But if you measure the wealth of a country by GDP per person both countries are in the bottom half of nations and Canada is well above the average.

This extraction of wealth is colonialism. snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ - Langara College is collaborating with the British Colombian government to extract wealth from poorer countries by way of differential fees in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest here in Canada. Tax cuts that the overpaid college administrators benefit from.

But there is resistance. Students and workers at Langara college have started a campaign to restore provincial funding to the level it was when the college opened. And to use that funding to lower tuition fees for international and domestic students to the same low level it was in 1970. Across the city, the movement for a tuition freeze at SFU is organizing students and reaching out to other campuses to build together.

Our provincial government and campus administrators are content to let things continue to get worse, so that the next 50 years will be as bad as the last. We can’t let them get away with it. Join the movement to reduce tuition fees on your campus.



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