Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Student aid and tuition for free.

According to this, the Canadian student aid system is dangerously close to breaking. The problem is really obvious, as is pointed out by the Canadian Federation of Students -- namely, that tuition is continually going up, so aid has to keep pace. Moreover, I would point out that, instead of actually providing realistic tuition relief, governments are continually relying on student loans to improve access to higher education.

The model as it exists is broken, badly. Post-secondary education is no longer an option, much as, at one point, secondary education ceased to be an option -- as, indeed, at one point, education at all ceased to be an option. In an increasingly literate, intellectual, technical society, there is a proportional increase in importance of post-secondary education. Hence, it is long past time that government make serious effort to guarantee a reasonable level of post-secondary education for all students. While some institutions could charge a premium, which would have to be covered by the students, aid programs, and the like, one should be able to complete a degree or diploma or trades program without having to pay a cent out of pocket. (This might have a nasty impact on graduate education, in that fees may be ratcheted up to try to cover the budgets. So, there must also be restrictions placed on how much of the cost of graduate -- and, for that matter, professional -- programs should be born by the student, keeping in mind that those with graduate and professional degrees, on average, earn more money and thus pay more in taxes into the system.)

I find this point obvious, but the CFS and related organizations always seem to be fighting a rearguard action in favour of increased student aid and tuition freezes. Their viewpoint is basically myopic. Sooner or later, some country is going to figure out that, if they guarantee their citizens post-secondary education, they will be able to economically flatten the rest of us. The only question, really, is whether Canada wants to be that country.

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