The cost of tuition is a hot topic among university students in Canada. Is a university degree still a worthy investment if we the students face graduating with a sizeable debt and without any job offers?
From coast to coast, the cost of tuition has been steadily increasing and, when one compares the fluctuations to rates of inflation, it seems tuition fees are excessive. However, the fact is that at university one gets what one pays for and if the money is not coming from tuition or taxes, it isn’t coming at all.
When a government places caps on tuition fees while raising pay for professors, they reduce what is spent on education and therefore reduce the quality of education. A major cost-intensive part of a university budget is teaching and, with less revenue available to cover costs of labour within a campus, there will be fewer teachers, fewer classrooms, less money for libraries and laboratories and generally an inferior educational experience.
One can argue a case for lower tuition with higher government grants to universities, more grants directly to students or for higher tuitions with a guarantee that general government assistance won’t be reduced. Either step means more money for education.
Tuition cuts or freezes along with caps on grants means less money for education. The math is irrefutable — how else is education to be funded? And, if one argues for more government grants, one has to argue for higher taxes or cuts in other government programs because the government is already running deficits and has no money available to increase funding.
Notably, the 2012 student protests in Quebec were in response to a proposed 75 per cent increase in tuition put forth by the Quebec Cabinet, headed by Liberal Premier Jean Charest. His plan would have seen the tuition fees for Quebecers rise by $325 a year for five years, starting in the 2012-13 academic year and continuing until 2016-17.
Ultimately the protest accomplished little, though the tuition hike was not approved for the time being. According to Geoffrey Kelley, Liberal politician in Quebec, the issue will have to be raised again. The protest climaxed on May 22, 2012 when 500,000 students marched the streets on the 100th day of the strike.
Anglophone students, especially those attending universities in Western Canada, looked eastward at the widespread protests with raised eyebrows wondering what all the fuss was about. Students in Quebec pay the lowest tuition in the country — roughly $2,600 according to Statistics Canada in 2012 — and enjoyed a freeze on tuition from 1994 to 2007.
Canadian professors seem to reap the benefits of bleeding red and white, ranking the best paid professors in the world according to a recent study in MacLean’s magazine. So why the outrage among our French neighbours?
Students attending university in Quebec tend to more often draw parallels with European schooling systems, like those in France and Scandinavia, which offer free post-secondary education — and in Sweden’s case, even pays students to attend.
These are not realistic expectations for Canadian students. We live in a country that offers many opportunities for government assistance for those who attend centres of higher education but lack the funds necessary to do so. Students in the United States are burdened with tuitions nearly double what we must pay for similar experiences.
According to the Daily Mail UK, the cost of a year’s tuition at Stanford University is a whopping $41,250 USD; whereas a year at McGill University will put you back a relatively low $14,561 CND.
It is important to keep a clear perspective on this issue and remember that the grass always seems greener on the other side. That being said, let’s not forget that the University of Saskatchewan has the second highest tuition in the country.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor