Roundup: Tuition trade-offs

If you’ve paid any attention to the NDP leadership race, you’ll know that the classic issue of free tuition has been bandied about with wild abandon, but no more enthusiastically than by Niki Ashton as she tries to bring Bernie Sanders-like excitement to the topic. The problem? That she’s ignoring some of the realities of the promise, for which Alex Usher took her to task over the Twitter Machine over the long weekend.

What Usher demonstrates here is that while it’s all well and good to promise free tuition, it comes with trade-offs, which is the reality in the countries where it is offered, and which Ashton refuses to discuss in her statements. You can’t give free tuition to everyone while maintaining the same level of access and quality instruction or institutions writ-large. There are other non-monetary resources that are finite, which this facile “free tuition is the solution!” boosterism ignores, and should be discussed if this is to be a seriously discussed issue and not just a vapid slogan, borrowing from American discourse without acknowledging the differences in Canada as so many of the Bernie Bro slogan appropriation has been.

Good reads:

  • Chrystia Freeland says the outlines of a softwood lumber deal are in place, but doesn’t have a timeline for when it will be settled.
  • The Americans are now heaping their issues with Canadian wine rules onto their pile of NAFTA irritants.
  • Documents show that the government was warned in March that irregular border crossings would continue to rise.
  • Wait times at airports are growing because CATSA funding has been cut, meaning fewer resources for more security screenings.
  • It being summer, here’s a PMO mailbox story, where lots of people wrote in about the US pre-clearance bill currently before the Senate.
  • A number of Canadian submariners are decamping for Australia, as their fleet begins procuring new subs.
  • Here’s a look at how Parks Canada prepared for the possible deluge of new visitors this summer with the free passes to all national parks.
  • Here’s a look at Andrew Scheer’s summer cross-country tour.
  • Susan Delacourt takes a lengthy look at people who’ve changed their minds and beliefs on big issues like marijuana, assisted dying and same-sex marriage.

Odds and ends:

Here’s a look at the failed attempt to plant oak trees at Vimy Ridge that were descended from acorns scooped up from a Canadian soldier there after the battle.

Tristin Hopper details the bad math of charity cross-country runs/bikes.

One thought on “Roundup: Tuition trade-offs

  1. Price-point is an ongoing challenge in post-secondary education. I’ve had the luxury of teaching the same university-credit courses in CEGEP – where students paid $150 registration fee for the entire16-half-course annual load – and many of Canada’s undergraduate programs, where students paid considerably more. My own experience is that students have to have some skin in the game to devote themselves to their studies enough to a) get something out of the program, and b) be good classmates and study partners.

    At the same time, the debtload that many take on to attend post-secondary education has serious economic implications. Hard to buy a home at an early age or start a family when burdened by student debt (though, to be fair, most of it comes not from tuition but from living costs). And engaging in both of those later in adulthood compromises capacity to save for retirement, which further places pressure on ways to employ recent graduates whose potential employment is occupied by folks in their 60’s.

    Conversely, consider just how much employers depend on the availability of youth employment at low wages to keep their businesses afloat. Make things so that young people don’t HAVE to save up more for post-secondary education, and one wonders what the economic repercussions of that would be.

    That’s why I say it is a price-point issue. The pricepoint has to be high enough to garner student commitment, while not being so punitive as to either be an obstacle to access, or stall graduates’ ability to enter economic adulthood.

    As an aside, a recent UK study posted on the Brookings Institution website looked at university participation rates in the UK since the introduction of tuition in the late 90’s.. They found no indication of either a drop in participation or any social-class effects (i.e., poorer kids showed no change in participation). HOWEVER, what they do that is different is that tuition is essentially charged post-graduation, and tied to income after graduation. That is, they “charge”, but it is not an upfront fee. Interesting approach, worth considering, rather than the free-or-expensive debate we presently have.

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