Today’s announcement by the BC government to increase the minimum wage to $15.20 per hour by 2021 brings welcome relief to students across the province.

“As the cost of tuition fees, textbooks, and rent continue to increase, students and their families are being forced to take on more debt,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). “Today’s announcement means a great deal to current and future students who are living paycheque to paycheque just to get by.”

Students in BC have joined the BC Federation of Labour’s call for an increase to minimum wage by supporting the Fight for $15 campaign. In its submission to the Fair Wages Commission, the BCFS recommended that the minimum wage be increased to $15 per hour by 2019.

Tuition fees have more than doubled since 2001, while the minimum wage hasn’t even kept up with the cost of living in BC. Stagnant wages and the high cost of tuition fees and housing forces students to work longer hours while in study. Working full-time at minimum wage in the summer doesn’t even allow a student to save enough to pay for their tuition fees and other costs for the following year. In 2015, 58% of college students and 42% of university students were working while studying.

“That the full increase won’t be realized until 2021 is disappointing, because many students will be forced to make poverty wages for a few more years. However, the incremental changes beginning this summer will help alleviate the financial difficulties,” said Marshall. “The average year as a student costs $20,000; someone working part-time at minimum wage will make less than $10,000 a year—that’s less than half the amount a student would need to support themselves.”

The BC Federation of Students represents over 130,000 post-secondary students at 13 universities and colleges in every region of BC. Post-secondary students in BC have been represented by the BCFS and its predecessor organization since 1975.