Tobin Era

In the years of the Tobin government 1996-2000, tuition fees rose 45% to a total of $3,300 a year due to cuts in federal transfers.[1] The provincial government also changed the provincial grants program into a system of student loans due to increasing tuition.

Student sat on the floor of the Liberal Party Office waiting to speak with Premier Tobin

Students waiting to speak with Premier Tobin

In February 1996, student leaders led a protest at the Liberal Party Office to demand information about the parties planned cuts to education because of the decrease in the Canada Health and Social Transfer Fund. Students waited six hours of speak with Premier Tobin and to discuss the need to prioritize post secondary education.[2]

 

Students gathered in front of the Confederation Building to Protest Premier Tobin

Student Protest 1996

In spring of 1996, the provincial government slashed MUN’s budget by 8 million as a result of the 800 million cut by the federal government to the Canada Health and Social Transfer Program. These cuts demonstrated that education was not a priority and forced provincial governments to pit education against healthcare.[3]

On October 22, 1996 thousands of students take over the Parkway to protest government cuts to education. Students demand a tuition freeze, a complete phasing out of tuition, and an introduction of grants instead of loans.[4]

On January 28, 1997, students filled the lobby of the Confederation building to protest and express their frustration with the continued deterioration of the province’s education system. Education cost and debt were rising, the emergency student loan fund had been depleted, and the university was expecting a 4.5% tuition increase that summer.[5]

Students fill the lobby of the Confederation building

Students filled the lobby of the Confederation Building, 1997

In 1998, the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation was established. It was created by an act of parliament but was operated by an outside organization with an endowment of 2.5 billion dollars.[6] It consisted of two sections. The millennium bursary program which awarded money based on financial need. As well as, the millennium excellence scholarship which awarded money based on academic merit. However, ineffective knowledge about the program and difficult application criteria made this program ineffective in providing major  assistance to student across the country.

The Canadian Educational Savings Grant program was created by the federal government as an incentive for Canadian families to invest and save money for their children’s post secondary education. This program paid families up to $7200 based on the amount of money they were able to save into a RESP.

Student Protest in the streets of the Parkway

Students Take Over Parkway

Enrolment at Memorial University was in decline while the cost of a University education was still increasing. The cod moratorium created increased unemployment and access to university decreased to the point where students took action.

 

Portrait of Premier Brian Tobin

Premier Brain Tobin

It was in 1999, that Premier Tobin listened to the needs of student activists and decided to act upon some of the recommendations . The Tobin government announced the first ever tuition freeze in the province.[7] The government invested 7 million dollars into maintaining programs and committing to a tuition freeze for at least two years.[8]

“Student made it impossible for me not to freeze tuition fees”- Brain Tobin [5]

These federal financial assistance programs, as well as the tuition freeze, began to enhance public participation in post secondary education by helping qualified people to access post secondary education regardless of socioeconomic background.[9] These programs were the first signs of a progressive positive change towards post secondary education in over a decade.


 

[1] Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador, “Fund the Future: A vision for Post Secondary Education in Newfoundland and Labrador,” last modified 2011, http://www.cfs-nl.ca/FundtheFuture-PolicyDocument.pdf.

[2] David Cochrane, “Student ask Tobin for Answers.” Muse, February 9, 1996.

[3] Michael Connors, “MUN’s Budget Slashed by $8 million this year.” Muse, May 21, 1996.

[4] David Cochrane, “Students take over Parkway.” Muse, October 25, 1996.

[6] Amanda Labonte, “Students rally against education cuts,” Muse, January 30, 1997.

[2] Dale Kirby, “Statistics and the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation,” Canadian Journal of Higher Education 32, no. 3 (2002).

[3] Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador, “Fund the Future: A vision for Post Secondary Education in Newfoundland and Labrador,” last modified 2011, http://www.cfs-nl.ca/FundtheFuture-PolicyDocument.pdf.

[4] Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, “Budget 1999: Celebrating 50 years,” (1999), http://www.budget.gov.nl.ca/Budget99/default.htm.

[5] Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador, “Fund the Future: A vision for Post Secondary Education in Newfoundland and Labrador,” last modified 2011, http://www.cfs-nl.ca/FundtheFuture-PolicyDocument.pdf.

[6] Dale Kirby, “Statistics and the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation,” Canadian Journal of Higher Education 32, no. 3 (2002): 113.

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