May 16, 2012 | 1 Comment
Amid all the chaos in Quebec over the government’s decision to hike tuition fees, there lies an essential debate that has been lost.
Affordable education is something worth discussing. Too bad this debate has been lost after months of protests, bull-headedness and now violence.
From what I’ve read in the English media, and in some French media as well, most Canadians seem to think Quebec students are fighting a losing battle for a hopeless cause.
The arguments are familiar. Many pundits think that Quebec students have it much better than their counterparts outside La Belle Province. Tuition fees in Quebec are much lower, so quite yer whining. That is pretty much the sum of most arguments.
While this may be the case, I find it unfortunate that no one seems to want to at least engage in a debate over whether subsidized post-secondary education, in its present form in Quebec, is something worth exploring. Never mind that fees are much higher in the rest of Canada. I fail to see how one province needs to conform to the norms of the rest of the country, especially on matters that are solely a provincial responsibility.
Here’s the argument for subsidies that rarely gets its due. If post-secondary education is subsidized along the lines of the Quebec system, does that not mean students emerge into the workforce sooner and with more money in their pockets? Does that not mean they will buy cars, houses and other items that will stimulate the economy?
On the surface, this seems to be sound policy. Other countries around the world think so, and have implemented similar systems, with varying degrees of success.
There are drawbacks to this type of system, of course. If a student remains in undergraduate programs for eight years, for example, this is not a terribly useful subsidy from the taxpayer.
I can see the merits of both arguments. Taxpayers want students and their families to pay their fair share of their education (whatever that is deemed to be). Students argue that they cannot fully emerge from under a mountain of student debt for years. Also, lower tuition fees obviously afford better educational opportunities for students from lower income families.
What’s the answer? I really don’t know. But isn’t it worth at least debating rationally?