June 2 may be a dim day for many students across Newfoundland and Labrador who commute to and from campus. With a gas tax hike to 33 cents per liter, commuter, work-term and rural students may feel their wallets become a little emptier, say student union leaders.

“In general students are already struggling to get by. The regressive book tax, tuition increases for certain students, residence fee increases, and now this gas tax is just another financial burden,” said Alex Noel, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Newfoundland and Labrador (CFS-NL).

“Many students that live outside the metro area choose to commute to campus because it is more affordable than paying the high cost associated with living in residence. But some students also have no choice to commute, because the transit system in NL is so poor.

“Essentially what we are seeing in this budget is that people are being asked to pay more for less. Taxes aren’t necessarily a bad thing – we need them to ensure we have good public services. However, right now we’re being asked to pay more in taxes while simultaneously seeing a reduction in services.”

It’s likely that this gas tax will continue to rise as it is already projected to increase by 2 per cent in July of this year.

In a survey administered by MUN in April 2010, 27.2 per cent of students said they did not take public transit, meaning most students will be forced to pay more to commute to and from post-secondary institutions.

Only 6.5% of full-time undergrads live on campus. Around a third students who live off campus travel to campus five times per week, with another third travelling to campus more than five times per week.

While walking is often an option in the fall, it is not an option for the 63.5% of MUN students who live too far from campus.

In the same survey 89.1% of students said that MUN should help students, staff, and faculty find sustainable and more cost-effective ways of getting to campus.

Students in Wabush, Labrador City, and Red Bay area are safe for now from these gas tax hikes. However, they may find themselves in a similar situation as there has been a bill tabled to raise the gas tax in these locations, which will be debated at a future sitting of the House of Assembly.

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