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Students occupying finance minister's office 

University groups protest NS budget's effect on tuition.

A photo from today's "study-in." Pictured are finance minister Diana Whalen (middle left) and protest organizer John Hutton (middle right). - DYLAN RYAN
  • A photo from today's "study-in." Pictured are finance minister Diana Whalen (middle left) and protest organizer John Hutton (middle right).
  • Dylan Ryan

Boy, that budget really hit a nerve, huh?

In the avalanche of discussions that's swirled about cuts to the province's film tax credit, changes made by the Liberals to Nova Scotia's university system received fewer headlines. Their impact hasn't gone unnoticed it seems, as student groups today assembled at finance minister Diana Whalen's constituency office in protest.

Around 20 students from Saint Mary's, King's college and Dalhousie universities (and with two film industry technicians) gathered at Whalen's Lacewood Road office this morning. John Hutton, incoming vice president at Dalhousie's student union, is one of the organizers of the "study-in" at the minister's office. He sent out the following release only moments ago, after the "occupation" had already begun.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-04-13_at_11.20.21_am.png

Speaking from the scene, Hutton says members of the group were invited in for a chat with Whalen. They spoke with the finance minister for about 40 minutes, but the results were unsatisfactory.

"Honestly, she didn't seem very sympathetic," Hutton says via phone call. "What she is calling balanced [in the budget] is the most radical tuition change in my lifetime."

As previously reported, the new budget lifts the three percent university and NSCC tuition cap, allowing a “one-time market adjustment” free-for-all. After the “one-time” change, universities can increase tuition for undergrads by three percent annually. The provincial tuition cap has been lifted entirely for all graduate students, and for anyone from another province studying in Nova Scotia.

Another student had messaged The Coast that police were called to the scene, but Hutton says he hasn't seen any. On the contrary, Hutton says staff at Whalen's office have been very nice, and the study-in protesters are now working on their assignments and prepping for exams. How long does he expect to stay there?

"As long as it takes."

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