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Vol 39  No 10
Feb. 22, 2007


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Student View




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Student View

By Jillian Terry


Crowded classes or cash –
is there a middle ground?

Two recent events that at first glance seem unrelated have, on closer inspection, a lot to do with each other. This month marked both the announcement of the Rant like Rick contest, where senior high school students are able to submit a video of themselves ranting in the style of Canadian comedy icon Rick Mercer in the hopes of winning a year’s tuition at Memorial, as well as the Canadian Federation of Students’ National Day of Action to reduce tuition fees. While the Day of Action is inherently important to many students, some – myself included – may feel left out in the cold when it comes to the contest for tuition, which only applies to those not yet entered into post-secondary education.

Student recruitment is essential to the survival of any post-secondary institution, and Memorial’s practices have undoubtedly been paying off, with increased enrolment numbers over the past several years. However, the idea of more students mixed with current students’ demands for lower tuition fees can bring to mind many potential problems, the most visible being crowded classes.

Let’s face it – there are only a certain number of classrooms at each of Memorial’s campuses. These classrooms can each accommodate a finite number of students, usually under the direction of one instructor. Likewise, there is an end to the number of slots in the timetable that these classrooms may be used for teaching, and a limited number of individuals available to teach. Such real-life restrictions mean that when student numbers increase each year, more and more students are being placed in each class, decreasing the ability for instructors to interact one-on-one with learners.

The Rant like Rick contest is definitely a great opportunity and the prize will most certainly help alleviate the financial burden of education on the winner, but the question remains – will the one year’s tuition prevent that student from being placed into an introductory course section with 200 or more others? And if not, will being in such a large class harm his or her chances of being able to succeed academically? These and other concerns are key considerations when it comes to balancing increased registrations with funding to the university through student tuition.

Fortunately, technology is playing an important role in helping to supplement large classes such as those often seen at the introductory level. Developments in video-conferencing tools as well as distance education software allow students to more effectively interact with their instructor in crowded course sections. However, in order to continue, technological enhancements such as these also require funding, again bringing the importance and value of tuition fees to the forefront of such discussions.

As a student, I, too, worry about accumulating thousands of dollars in student debt. Even at one of the least expensive universities in Canada, attempting to get a post-secondary education is a pricey endeavour. However, now that I’m here, the quality of my education is what has become paramount. Each student wants to receive the best possible instruction while staying financially aware. Therefore, other sources of revenue for the university, especially government funding, are vital in ensuring that Memorial and other universities across the country continue to deliver a high level of education, which includes keeping class sizes as small as possible.

So, as more young people continue to arrive at Memorial each year and current students persist in lobbying government for lower tuition fees, a balance needs to be found by both students and administration when it comes to the quality of our education. After all, that’s what we’re all here for. Perhaps a rant from Rick would do crowded classes some good.

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