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Free tuition would make college, university accessible to all

Written by Think Forward Staff
Thursday, 15 September 2016

The new school year is here, and in most parts of the country, college and university students are paying more for tuition than they did last year. Things have been going this way for over two decades, so by now parents and students are used to it. But how long can tuition fees keep rising before college and university become a fantasy for all but the wealthy?

We’ve reached a point where post-secondary education is a prerequisite to succeeding in today’s innovation-driven and rapidly-changing economy. And yet obtaining a college or university degree is more expensive today than it’s ever been. That’s mainly because government funding for post-secondary education is inadequate. As a result, tuition fees keep skyrocketing while student debt spirals out of control.  

How did we get here? Well, as a share of operating revenues, government funding for post-secondary education has fallen from over 77 percent in 1997 to less than 55 percent in 2012. To make up for the funding shortfall, colleges and universities have increased tuition by 137 percent over the last 25 years. In fact, tuition fees have risen from an average of $1,706 in 1991-1992 to $6,191 in 2015-2016.

Because of these two disturbing trends, student debt is at an all-time high. Between 2000 and 2010, average total student debt increased by 40 percent, and by 2012, Canada’s total student loan debt was estimated to be over $28 billion.

Why does this matter? Because unaffordable tuition fees and crushing student debt are making college and university inaccessible to many working and middle class students. And without a college or university degree, they’re less likely to succeed in the new economy. That’s why we need adequate government funding for post-secondary education. And we need it now.

Luckily, there are solutions to these problems. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has shown that, by redirecting education funding that is currently dedicated to ineffective tax credits, savings tools, and Labour Market Development agreements, and increasing federal and provincial funding for post-secondary education by a modest amount, our governments could eliminate tuition fees and increase grants that cover other costs of attendance, like housing and textbooks. This would ensure that access to post-secondary education in Canada is universal, and not just an option for the wealthy few.

In other words, free tuition is a realistic goal, but we need to convince our governments to act. Here’s how you can help: the CFS has launched a new campaign – using the hashtag #AllOutNov2 – to mobilize students from across the country to demand universal access to post-secondary education through free tuition, education justice, and a truly public education system. You can learn more about their efforts by clicking here.

Their call for universal and free education is also being supported by a number of prominent social justice organizations and labour unions. For example, UFCW Canada has launched a campaign calling on our federal and provincial governments to #TossTuition once and for all.

By supporting these efforts, we can help make free tuition and universal access to education a reality for all students. Don't waste any more time - take action today!

 

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