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Note to governments: Higher ed is worth the $$$

Written by Think Forward Staff
Friday, 19 October 2012

Every year we see stories of politicians telling people that higher education is too pricey to fund. The usual argument is that college and university students need to "pay their fair share" and accept huge tuition hikes, even though student debt is ballooning across the globe.

In Canada the most recent and highly publicized tuition battle happened in Quebec, when Jean Charest's Liberal Government tried to raise tuition fees by $1625 over five years. Students said the spike was unnecessary and responded by walking out of their classrooms and protesting in the streets. They told the government to cancel the increases and protect access to affordable education. After winning the provincial election this past September, the Parti Quebecois scrapped the planned tuition hikes on their first day in office. It was a massive victory for students, and a testament to their hard work and organization.

While the Quebec triumph was very encouraging to see, tuition continues to rise in the rest of the country. And this raises the question: what is our federal government doing to help the provinces and schools provide reasonably-priced education? We all know that in today's economy you need a university degree or college diploma to avoid working at Chuck E. Cheese's, as more than 70 percent of all new jobs in Canada require some form of post-secondary education. But ever since the 1990s, federal government grants as a share of university operating revenue have fallen dramatically, forcing tuition fees to skyrocket and putting higher education out of reach for many students.  

And yet, it would only take one budget to make university and college a lot more accessible in Canada. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives points out, the federal government could stop subsidizing the stupidly rich oil industry and use the money to reduce tuition fees by 57 percent, which would bring average tuition down to 1992 levels. This would give low-income students a better chance of pursuing their education without going broke.

Look at it this way: students in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Sweden either pay very low tuition fees, or nothing at all. Canada beats these countries in hockey and happiness; who's to say we can't outshine them in funding higher learning? Plus most Canadians believe that governments should make university and college more affordable for everyone, even if it requires a small increase in taxes. So let's remind our elected officials that education is worth the investment, and ask them why college is more accessible in countries that are way less awesome than Canada.

See also: Do you believe our governments should make college and university more affordable for students?



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