By Lindsay Handren
( UPEISU President Kate VanGerven, VP Activities Jon Millington, VP Exec Danielle MacDonald, and Councillor Sara Reeves stand with the tree in front of Province House early Monday morning. )
UPEI’s Education Week wrapped up this morning in front of Province House with a unique display of commitment and student unity. Carrying a steel tree onto the building’s historic front lawn, UPEI students looked to make a public statement concerning access to post-secondary education.
“The tree is our way of reaching off campus, to involve our elected government and the Island community as a whole in discussions about post-secondary education and student debt,” explained UPEI Student Union VP Danielle MacDonald.
“It’s meant as a conversation piece. A lot of people play a role in post-secondary education here on PEI, and we want to get them talking.”
A week-long initiative aimed at raising awareness on the importance of continued investment in post-secondary education, and taking note of the rising levels of student debt, the Education Week Campaign presented UPEI students with opportunities to connect with staff, faculty, administration, and government.
Highlights included visits from Minister of Fisheries and Rural Development Ron MacKinley and Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, present to show their support.
This year’s theme, “Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees”, offered up a simple yet effective statement on the rising costs of post-secondary education. The tree is a clear reflection of the campaign’s theme, and of student involvement.
“It was important to us to have a physical representation of what we have been advocating for all week long,” noted MacDonald.
“There are roughly 400 ribbons hanging from the tree, each with a students’ name on it. The signatures are visible representations of their support for continued and affordable access to post-secondary education.”
Tuition at the University of Prince Edward Island currently stands at roughly $6,000 per year. According to a study released last week by The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative, it won’t be long before that number hits a staggering $10,000. With many Island students already concerned about how to pay for their academic futures, the steadily rising cost of tuition has only added to those worries.
UPEI is hoping that their conversation starter will do just that, and get the ball rolling on this important issue.
“We need to start advocating for our school, advocating for our programs and advocating for each other,” concluded MacDonald.
“Increased student debt is the reality of what’s happening. As a community, we need to support each other and open lines of communication. There are solutions; there can be assistance. We can make this work, but we need the support of our elected politicians.”
Time to get talking, PEI.
For further information on the Education Week Campaign, contact Danielle here.