Unaffordable education

It’s a sad state of affairs when the first thought to run through my head upon reading the headline, “School tuition hikes eclipse inflation rate again: Statscan”, was This isn’t really news.

Tuition increases are par for the course at university. When provinces cap the maximum allowable increase, that sets the bar for what the administration seems to require each year.

This is an odd twist of economics if you think about it.

The cost of running a school should only rise with inflation. Some material costs will increase faster, others will be slower, but overall the budget for next year should be equivalent to the budget for this year plus inflation.

Of course if the university is undergoing aggressive expansion – which they all seem to be doing – they will need a bit more money next year.

If we want to make the corporate analogy (which many do to the detriment of our education system), then imagine a company that increases the price of its product each year, simply so they can sell more products next year – and at a higher price. It would be brilliant if it could work, but in general this a model doomed to failure.

So it’s good to see that at least a few provinces are trying to buck this trend.

Newfoundland and Labrador has frozen its tuition for the past 8 years, resulting in among the lowest rates in the country. Manitoba also kept its increase down to 1.4%. This also shows us that both Conservative (of the anyone-but-Harper kind) and NDP governments can actually care about education. Of course Ontario and Nova Scotia both posted large increases, also showing that Liberal and NDP governments can abandon education in favour of deficit reductions (it’s worth noting that the Nova Scotian government reduced tuition for the past few years).

The $6640 tuition that Ontario student pay is just obscene to me.

As an engineering undergrad I had to pay above average to cover some of the extra fancy lab equipment, not to mention the recent UofA Engineering education tax. In one term I had 7 courses, but I still don’t think I paid as much as Ontarians pay on average!

This is one reason why I really hope Niki Ashton will step forward as an NDP leadership candidate – her record on PSE and youth issues has been stellar. While she may not win, at least bringing those issues to the debate would be a big step forward.