The College of New Caledonia (CNC) student body lurched to life on Saturday to call for lower tuition fees and student loan costs.
Approximately a dozen students dressed as zombies took part in the fourth annual Night of the Living Debt zombie walk, organized by the CNC Students' Union.
"Tuition fees are so high. They [the B.C. government] have put a cap on how much they [post-secondary institutions] can increase them, but that doesn't help much," Patricia Obasi said. "I'm an international student from Nigeria, and tuition is three times as high as for Canadian students. [But] it's expensive for everybody to go to school."
Obasi represents international students on the student union's executive committee.
The total tuition and fees for a Canadian student taking a full academic course load at CNC is $1,521.73 per semester, with up to $604.15 in additional lab fees. For students taking vocational and trades programs, the costs can be as high as $9,284.35 per year.
For international students, the cost is $1,149 per course, or $4,700 per semester for English as a Second Language or college and career preparation courses.
"Across the province, CNC is one of the more affordable options," student union executive director Robert Chavarie said. "The tuition fee increases are one issue, but there is also the issue of student debt. B.C. has the highest interest rate for student loans in Canada."
CNC event is one of several Night of the Living Debt events held across B.C., Canada and internationally to bring attention to the issues of rising student debt loads, he said.
"We wanted a fun way to bring attention to the issue," Chavarie said. "And get dressed up and get into the Halloween season."
According to data gathered by Statistics Canada, the number of Canadian post-secondary students graduating with student loans increased from 49 per cent in 1995 to 57 per cent in 2005. The average student debt among graduates increased from $15,200 to $18,800 in the same period, and the percentage of students with more than $25,000 in student loans increased from 17 per cent to 27 per cent.
The impact of student debt extends beyond graduation, according to Statistics Canada. In 2007 post-secondary graduates aged 20 to 45 who had student loans at graduation had a 42 per cent chance of having savings and investments, verses 52 per cent among graduates without student loans - when other factors were eliminated.
It's a horror story familiar to zombie walk participant Joe Daniels.
"I like zombies and horror movies," he said. "And like many students, I'm saddled with a massive debt load and want to to draw attention to that."