For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of being activities vice-president on the Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) Student Council. Along with all the elections, blood donor clinics and fun social events I’ve planned, I have also organized a very special day that is close to my heart: Tuition Freedom Day.
Tuition Freedom Day marks the end of the fiscal year paid for by student tuitions and the beginning of the year made possible by grants and donations from the Manitoba government, churches and individual donors.
When I was in my first year, I had no idea what this day was or what it meant. I knew we got together, heard some speeches, watched balloons fall from the rafters and ate pizza together. I could feel the atmosphere of celebration, but had no clue what the celebration was for. I did not realize that, despite the tuition I pay, it only covers about 40 percent of what it actually costs to run the university.
I did not realize that the other 60 percent or so is covered by a multitude of donors, each giving to CMU for their own unique reasons: because they were impacted by their own time studying at CMU, or because they believe in CMU’s potential. My own grandmother gives what she can because, being a piano teacher for most of her life, she values how education can transform a person.
My peers and I are testaments to the transformation of education. I believe we become better people when we learn and are engaged with one another, thinking of ways to shape each other’s lives and communities for the better.
With my time at CMU drawing to a close, these things become more and more important to me as well. I love being able to plan an event for the sole purpose of celebrating generosity and education. Tuition Freedom Day is where two different groups—students and donors—come together to celebrate the shared goal we work towards. As students, our eyes are open to the fact that we are always being supported in our studies. This is humbling.
As Raven Nickel, our student speaker at the 2014 Tuition Freedom Day on Nov. 24, shared, “[Donors] give us opportu-nities that push us to look for the image of God . . . enabling us to look beyond ourselves so that we can do kingdom work.”
At CMU, we are encouraged to push out of our comfort zones by wracking our brains a little harder, by looking for the connections between disciplines and by constantly searching for ways we can make this world even just a little bit better.
It may sound trite, but CMU is educating a future generation of women and men to look outside of ourselves, to see the bigger goal of God’s kingdom on earth.
Donors get to see their donations flourish in the forms of bursaries, scholarships, new building projects, and especially in students who can continue to engage in their studies. I hope that donors are thrilled each time they hear of a CMU alum going off to do great things, or when the university announces exciting projects like Marpeck Commons, the new library, learning commons and bridge that recently opened on campus.
At Tuition Freedom Day, each group gets to look at the faces of the others and see a different perspective of CMU. It really is a special connection that gets overlooked in a lot of other university contexts, and I’m happy to be a part of a celebration that fosters this connection.
On behalf of the intelligent, hardworking and grateful students at CMU, I thank donors for their support. I hope you can swing by next year’s Tuition Freedom Day to enjoy a slice of pizza with us.
Amber Neufeld, 21, is from Winnipeg. She is a fourth-year social science and English double major at CMU.
The 2014-15 CMU Student Council on Tuition Freedom Day, an annual celebration recognizing the generosity of donors, churches and the Manitoba government in supporting education at CMU. (Photo courtesy of CMU)
Tuition Freedom Day is celebrated with speeches, balloons, pizza and fellowship. (Photo courtesy of CMU)
A group of students leads singing at the 2014 Tuition Freedom Day on Nov. 24. (Photo courtesy of CMU)