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Charest cancels trip to vermont; uvm students protest in solidaritywith montrealers by grehh hernjer





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Charest cancels trip to vermont; uvm students protest in solidaritywith montrealers by
Article Posted: 11/26/2013
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Charest cancels trip to vermont; uvm students protest in solidaritywith montrealers


 
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In solidarity with striking students in Quebec, UVM students andmembers of the Vermont Workers Center planned to protest QuebecPremier Jean Charest's Vermont visit on Thursday. The premierhad been scheduled to sign a cooperative agreement with Gov. PeterShumlin, but the visit was cancelled at the last minute. James Haslam, lead organizer for the Vermont Workers Center,claimed Charest bagged out of the Green Mountain visit because hewas turned off by the anticipated protests in Burlington. Vermonters successfully sent a loud and clear message to QuebecPremier Charest that his agenda of union-busting, repression andausterity aren't welcome here Apparently after hearing thebuzz about the solidarity rally being organized by leaders ofOccupy Burlington and the Vermont Workers' Center to supportthe Quebec students strike, Charest decided to cancel his trip.

It seems unlikely, however, that Charest would have been turned offby a smallish group of Vermont protesters as compared with thethousands of Quebecois who have been turning up in the streets forweeks to oppose tuition hikes in the province. The official wordfrom Shumlin's office was that Charest had postponed his tripto Vermont to attend debates in the General Assembly in QuebecCity. VTDigger.org was unable to connect with Charest s press aideThursday, but news reports from Canada said Charest had abruptlychanged his chief of staff. The Montreal Gazette wrote that"his office is denying the sudden decision is related to thestudent crisis rocking the government." Read more.

For more than 100 days now, Quebec students and supporters haveprotested tuition increases for the province s universities. TheQuebec National Assembly passed an emergency law recently requiringanyone planning a protest to notify police eight hours in advance. Ashley Wolf, a senior at the University of Vermont, said studentsin Burlington planned to highlight the events in Quebec and makeconnections between the struggles students face in both places. Tuition at UVM for in-state students for the 2012-13 year is$13,344. For out-of-state students it is $33,672.

Wolf said the steep cost drives some students to other states. A lot of Vermont students can t go to UVM, she said. That san issue. While Vermont students will still be paying far more than theirneighbors in Quebec, Wolf said the percentage increase in tuitionraises concerns. The increase in tuition in Quebec will cost students $325 more eachyear for five years, raising tuition to just under $4,000 by2016-17.

Haslam said there are solidarity protests planned in other parts ofthe United States also. For Vermonters, we feel we have a heightened responsibility toshow there is strong support for the students in Quebec, he said. He said it is not so much the money but the trend toward a moreU.S.-style policy that is less friendly to the working class. In recent days, police have arrested hundreds of protesters inQuebec under the emergency law that was passed last week.

Protesters in Quebec are demanding that the premier roll back thetuition hikes. Quebec has the lowest tuition rates in Canada, buteven after such an 80 percent increase, it would remain among thelowest in the country. Across the border in Vermont, the tuition increase at theUniversity of Vermont was up 3.5 percent from the year before. Richard Cate, UVM s vice president for finance and administration,said that is actually less of an increase from last year, which was5.8 percent. Typical UVM students who have to borrow money to go to school leavewith around $20,000 in debt, Cate said.

The state university stuition is one of the highest for in-state students in the country.Part of that, Cate said, is due to low state funding. Despite the small appropriations for higher education in the state,Cate said, Vermont has not seen drastic cuts like other states. In our case, we have been fortunate in that the rules of the gamehaven t changed substantially, Cate said. We ve had lesspublic support but it hasn t been volatile.

Another reason the university s tuition increase rose less steeplythis year, Cate said, was a decrease in the financial aid theschool gave out as a result of incomes in the state increasing.Less financial aid going out means less pressure to increasetuition across the board. In Quebec, Cate said, the tuition hike is a much greater change inpast process that seems to be precipitating angst. Education ismuch more heavily subsidized in Quebec, he said, meaning more shockat the increase in tuition. When asked about the pending protests at a press conferenceWednesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said he did not get involved in theinternal political issues in Quebec.

I would kill to have the inflation increases in higher edthey re protesting in Quebec right here in Vermont, Shumlinsaid. Of the $300 or so increases in tuition, he said, We would takethat any day of the week.

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