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Tuition is not a “Barrier” – It’s a Floodgate!

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Tuition is not a “Barrier” – It’s a Floodgate!

Whenever students protest tuition hikes as an impediment to access, administrators, government officials and economists all point to studies purported to prove that higher tuition does not lead to decreases in enrolment levels. (There are also much better documented studies that show how higher tuition does make education much less accessible but nobody pays attention to them.)

According to the high tuition enthusiasts, protestors are all a bunch of Chicken Littles, worried about how increasing tuition will force poorer people to forgo the opportunities afforded by higher education. Apparently, higher tuition is not a barrier to accessibility.

All the “experts” seem to support the claim made by the 1% that we don’t need progressive income tax measures to pay for public colleges and universities. Governments can simply jack up tuition and students will be forced to take on higher levels of debt to pay for postsecondary education, which is the minimum requirement for today’s job market.

Even with high tuition costs, our youth will be highly educated (if also highly indebted). As an added bonus for employers, debt-ridden employees are docile employees, willing to put up with all manner of dehumanizing conditions for that all-important (although increasingly meagre) paycheque.

But when faced with serious studies about the economic impact of free education in Québec like the one submitted by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), the experts suddenly discover that there is a link between the cost of education and accessibility.

Pierre Fortin is the economist on whom the PQ government is relying when it comes to the cost-calculations of various tuition scenarios being proposed in preparation for the upcoming education summit. He tells La Presse  that ASSÉ’s estimated price tag for the elimination of tuition vastly understates the cost because, wait for it, once all financial barriers are removed, enrolment levels will skyrocket.

ASSÉ says free postsecondary education would cost Québec about $668 million (that calculation includes a modest increase in enrolment at a cost of about $26 million). But, according to Mr. Fortin, ASSÉ so drastically underestimates how much tuition limits access that the real cost of free postsecondary education would be almost double ASSÉ’s estimate – $1.1 billion!

Tuition is not a barrier; it’s a floodgate!

Free education would be unfeasible because so many young people would want to learn. What a tragedy that would be! The worst of all possible worlds for the 1% – an educated population but with no crippling personal debt to render it docile. Uppity independent critical minds! Oh, the horror!

David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of the murder mystery Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

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bernans (David Bernans)
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