Howls of protest for need-based grants

Students toting dogs demand $25M for needs-based education grants

Dogs and protesters wait outside the Student Union Building (SUB).
A banner was dropped outside the SUB to symbolize the $25 million desired for need-based grants.
Aaron Beale, the DSU's vice-president academic and external, leads protesters.
Protesters en route to Halifax MLA's office on Quinpool Road.
Keeper waits outside Howard Epstein's office.

Dalhousie University students protested with their dogs yesterday in an effort to grab the attention of provincial government to invest in need-based grants.

A grant system would be an “easy measure,” according to Aaron Beale, the Dalhousie Student Union’s (DSU) vice-president academic and external. “It could help a lot of students and could also be done just through taking funds from other areas [of government].”

The DSU’s goal to have 25 dogs to represent the $25 million it would take to get rid of student loans fell short with only 10 dogs.

Even though the protesters didn’t meet their desired number of dogs, the rambunctious animals drew in passersby outside the Student Union Building. At times, the media outnumbered the students approaching to inquire about the dogs.

“People love dogs and the media love dogs. If it was just students holding signs out here I don’t think we’d get enough press and enough coverage,” said Rachelle McKay, third-year student and dog owner.

Seeking out the local MLA

Eight protesters made their way down Quinpool Road to the office of Halifax MLA Howard Epstein’s office to deliver a package containing:

  • A report issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that argues to eliminate student loans
  • Pictures of students pretending to be crushed by a piñata boulder symbolizing student debt
  • A leaflet from protesters outlining how a $25 million grant program would be feasible

Drowning in debt    

In 2011, Statistics Canada calculated the average Nova Scotia student debt at $35,642.

By scrapping provincial initiatives such as covering student debt above $28,560 and giving Nova Scotia post-secondary graduates a 2,000 tax credit, the action group believes the province can adequately fund a program of up-front grants.

One student who marched along with her dogs thinks it’s about time something is done to help students manage their debt.

“I’m in my fifth year and it’s taking a while [to graduate],” said Vive Anderson.“Part of the reason it’s taking a while is because of financial reasons. So I think it’s really important to draw attention to the issue of a lot of kids being paralyzed by their debt before they even have a head start in life.”