Thompson Rivers University's student union says ever-increasing tuition fees are putting higher education out of reach of many.
A poll commissioned by TRUSU showed 87 per cent of the 618 respondents felt tuition fees should be frozen or reduced, while eight per cent said they should be increased and five per cent didn't know.
Union president Dustin McIntyre said TRU's tuition fees have jumped by 247 per cent in the past decade — 15 times the rate of inflation.
"Tuition fees are putting the education needed in a changing economy out of reach of too many while indebting many others," he said.
"It's not acceptable."
TRU vice-president advancement Christopher Seguin said the numbers require a closer look.
During that 10-year period the student union is using to measure tuition hikes, Thompson Rivers University went from a university college to a full-fledged university. It also added a lot more programs, he said.
"Some of the degrees offered now weren't offered a decade ago," he said.
"Plus there's more access to research and teaching research."
This year's tuition increase is two per cent, or less than $15 per semester, he said.
"A two per cent increase plays a small role in the rising costs in providing that education."
The B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education has allocated $64.6 million for TRU's operating budget for 2012/13. Since it was given university status on April 1, 2005, TRU's operating grant has gone up $11.1 million, or 20.6 per cent.
Seguin said when new programs are created, there are associated costs.
"We're faced with economic realities, and modest increases are part of dealing with that," he said. "Our primary priority is to give great education and service to our students."
While no one likes tuition increases, students have to realize they only pay a portion of the price, he added.
"Less than 20 per cent of the cost per student is associated with tuition.
He also said the TRUSU data includes international student tuitions, which shouldn't be added in because it is based on full cost recovery.
"When you look at our tuition rates compared to our peer institutions, we carry great value and it's reasonable," he said.
"We are doing everything we can to meet a challenging economic time. We have to balance accessibility and excellence."
McIntyre said the 2005 change of university status is just being used as another excuse to raise tuition fees.
What TRUSU wants to see is more public accountability and explanation about the university's budget and spending.
With tuition reaching $2,500 for a full five-course semester, the cost of attending TRU is getting too high for some, he said.
"It has to be accessible to everyone."
The student union's next step is to start up a campaign called Vote Education. It will encourage TRU students to register to vote in the spring 2013 provincial election, and to push candidates and political parties to take a stand on tuition increases.