The campaign to lower student debt in B.C. is gaining momentum with a recent BMO study indicating the province carries more than any other in Canada.
And what better time to campaign locally than during Thompson Rivers University's annual barbecue to welcome students?
Provincial NDP MLA David Eby, who unseated Premier Christy Clark in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding last May, dropped into the campus with his message Friday along with thousands of learners and dozens of booths delivering information on everything from school clubs to local eateries.
The B.C. critic of advanced education began a month-long tour this week of the province's post-secondary institutions. He's pushing for the return of a B.C. grants program that was discontinued five years ago.
"Tuition has become a problem for middle class families in B.C. and that's a major issue," said Eby.
The NDP's solution is to identify the most needy students and provide them with grants. The proposed $41 million in grants would be offset by the decrease in costs incurred by B.C.'s loan repayment bureaucracy, said Eby.
Although the party is spreading the message, its actually picking up on grassroots campaigns provincewide.
"It's student unions' call for the grant program that we're supporting," said Eby.
TRU student union president Dylan Robinson says grants are the most effective form of tuition financial aid in terms of facilitating access to education, targeting need and not wasting the province's investment.
He argues it's the best solution for the economy and for university completion rates since some students quit school due to debt load.
And if tuition seems expensive for domestic students, just take a look at international student rates, said TRUSU.
The student union's international collective is promoting a tuition solution for what's perceived as exorbitant foreign fees: a per credit system.
Currently, students from abroad pay a flat fee of approximately $8,000 per term whether they've signed up for five courses or three.
Campaign organizer Deborah Efrefuei, a fourth-year animal biology student from Nigeria, said the system is unfair for students who don't have the freedom to choose a curriculum suited to their abilities.
"Some people are forced to take more than they can handle because they don't want to lose money. Then they don't get as great grades as they could. And your grades follow you like a shadow."
The reasoning resonates with a lot of students.
"It's a very good initiative. It makes a lot of sense," said Lola Osinowo, a business student from Nigeria. "We pay lots of money, even flying all the way here it costs a lot. If it becomes pay per credit, a lot of people will be more interested in coming over to study as international students."
TRUSU intends to collect signatures on a petition and formulate a report on the merits of a per credit system to appeal to the board of governors at the end of the term.