Posted in In the news, Opinion

A proposal for the tuition debate

Gasoline prices

  • Colombia: $1.91
  • Tokyo: $1.83
  • Sydney: $1.50
  • Yellowknife: $1.49
  • Johannesburg: $1.40
  • London: $2.14
  • Stockholm: $2.18
  • Amsterdam: $2.37
  • Montreal: $1.39

Source: Globe and Mail, 2011

I don’t take a strong position for or against the tuition battle in Quebec. I think the issue is far more complex than either side is willing to admit. But the argument that Quebec students should shut up because their tuition is the lowest in Canada just bugs me, because it implies that accessibility to education should be just good enough, relative to other places. (And, of course, there are plenty of places in the world where tuition is a lot less than Quebec.)

So I propose a deal: Left-wing commie students will stop complaining about the cost of their tuition when right-wing redneck drivers stop complaining about gas prices.

It won’t happen, of course. People love to complain about the cost they have to pay for things.

24 thoughts on “A proposal for the tuition debate

  1. Ant6n

    Here’s an idea: use gas taxes to plug the Quebec budget hole, rather than gouging students. Clearly, gas prices are too low here.

    Reply
  2. The "Devil" once some students read this

    I’ll agree with the “cheapest tuition” nonsense as you described. I find that argument as silly as…..justifying the hydro rates should be brought up to par with the rest of the country (why? If taxpayers invested billions on the infrastructure in the first place, why can’t they derive some kind of social dividend?)….orrrrrrr…….governments (especially local) who brag when they keep tax increases in line with inflation (1 – which inflation? Cost of living? Housing? Fuel-exempted? Hybrid? 2 – since when is budgeting below inflation or, heaven forbid, budgeting for LESS taxes such a crime? It’s laziness. Books are loaded with garbage. You can find it and not miss a beat. I’m talking YOU Monsieur Tremblay…)

    But here’s what I say to students – you’re framing the argument wrong. I constantly hear two camps: 1) tuition should be “free”; and/or 2) increases are making education unaffordable. Obviously, it’s not “unaffordable” because I don’t see enrolment levels at most big universities in this province falling through the floor. And it’s more accessible than ever. There’s far more middle and lower class students enrolled than even 30-40 years ago. And, honestly, far too many students are just too lazy to really research all the grants, bursuries and other tuition relief mechanisms available (yes, universities don’t make finding the maze easy. So, a little extra elbow grease and internet access.)

    The biggest problem I have with the students is this “oh I’ve piled up tens of thousands of dollars in debt”. Nobody puts a gun to anybody’s head to spend that kind of money on “education” in the first place. If it’s too expensive, sorry to be the bad man but……MOVE! Scandinavia has free education? Go there. Nevada state universities have free tuition? Go there. Just like the Ontarians who used to high-tail it to Montreal for the half-price tuition (and better beer access and strippers but that’s another story) until Quebec took out that psuedo-free ride. The only two guaranteed things in life are death and taxes. Or don’t get a 3 year or 4 year degree. Work and stretch it out. Yeah, you don’t want to be 25 and still finishing an education but you know what? University is also a fun time. Live it a bit. There’s plenty of time before learning the real world of greedy corporate bosses or slugging it out and turning that history degree into a master barrista trade. A lot of us have to work and upgrade skills well into our adult lives (and some of that ain’t financially cheap or great for quality family life either.)

    Or a better idea? If the students believe they are the living breathing 99%, here’s a novel idea – get idealistic, get elected and say to all those oldtimer taxpayers that you think put you in no-escape debtors prison that you’re cutting all their pensions and shipping them to Greenland when they get old and cranky enough. With the money saved on healthcare and taxable benefits, the savings can be plowed into gold-plated free education for decades to come. It sure beats parading on the streets mostly because you’re hoping there’s free coffees or beer for showing up.

    Maybe we just need the Rhinoceros Party to come back and take us on the enlightened path :)

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      If it’s too expensive, sorry to be the bad man but……MOVE!

      The problem with the “if you don’t like it then move” argument is that it can be applied to anything. And telling people that their only recourse when they disagree with government policy is to move away seems to go against the entire point of democracy.

      Reply
      1. The "Devil"

        Of course it can be applied to anything. But that’s the whole point. No matter which way the protesters paint it, higher level education is not a right nor a government-imposed necessity but rather a privilege. IF university education prices are so high now (as some – especially the free education sect – advocate), there`s nothing in university attendance figures indicating some kind of huge net exodus. By a similar token, many a homeowner despises city property taxes. But you don`t so see them engaged in mass marches shutting city businesses down. They simply use that democratic right to move with the feet to suburbia or exurbia or whatever. Democracy is a two-edge sword. Absolutely it carries the right to object to something. But it also carries to right to choose how you object and the right for those to say they`re getting a pretty cheap and easy ride already. Today I watched a protester on television saying she objects to higher tuition because she already has to pay to keep up a car and a place to live. Uhhhhh……welcome to real life – democracy often comes with capitalism. You`re not selling your concept of democratic ideal when you`re basically saying that society should be bankrolling your delayed integration amongst the working stiffs.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          No matter which way the protesters paint it, higher level education is not a right nor a government-imposed necessity but rather a privilege.

          And who dictates that this is so? For that matter, who sets the line between lower-level education that is a guaranteed right, and higher education that isn’t?

          By a similar token, many a homeowner despises city property taxes. But you don`t so see them engaged in mass marches shutting city businesses down.

          When was the last time property taxes were increased by 100%?

          Reply
          1. The "Devil"

            The “line” drawn between when education is a right and when it’s privilege is dictated by the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 40. The last time property taxes were increased 100%? In all due respect Steve – you’re getting carried away. The 100% “increase” is taking five years to implement and that’s after years and years of pretty much frozen tuition. Let’s not overdramatize with percentages. If I have a loonie in my pocket and pick up a found one off the ground, I have “100%” more money in my pocket even though it’s just a dollar. Property tax owners who get hit with $325 in increases a year for five years (or averaging that much)? PLENTY of them. Am I going to sit here and tell students to get off the beer, the IPhones and pay for it? No. I do believe that there are students who feel they “must” get the education at any cost for their economic future benefit. To that, the protest should be for government (and the private sector) to help with more available and larger grants, bursaries, etc. But to go out and complain about a serious of increases that most (heck, just about all) of them will not even be around to get hit with and shutting downtown in the process is not going to get too much sympathy.

            Reply
          2. Alex L

            The « frozen tuition » argument is a myth. Universities have been increasing their « frais afférents » for many years now, and the government has no plan to restrain them for doing so again in the future.

            Reply
    2. Ant6n

      Wait, so you think that making comparisons to other provinces, countries or to inflation do not represent valid arguments, but you think that “if you don’t like it, go to Russia” does?!

      Reply
  3. Cody

    Honestly, I don’t appreciate any popular side of the debate: one side demands tuition to stay the same, another demands it be eliminated completely, and yet another supports the hike and want students to pay for it all. They are all addressing a complex problem with simple solution: obviously not going to work. My solution is to raise the tuition (yes, I drew a green square on me during today’s protests) while offering greater and more accessible assistance to students who could use it (I drew that green square around a red dot). Honestly, the level of assistance for CÉGEP students is pretty good: I live with roommates who need assistance, and they get around $800 for the first month of the semester (to cover approx. $300-500 in books and tuition) and $400 for subsequent months; this amount is okay and I support it. However, the same amount of assistance is given to my friends in university, where tuition alone is around $2,000 per year (full-time) and their books cost around $400-500; you could just barely pay for all of that with the assistance, let alone pay for your lodging and food (i.e., forget about enjoy yourself with a few drinks every now and then). I have friends who have quit school because it’s too expensive for them, they need time to work for everything else, and part-time studies are even more expensive than full-time. While we as students should expect to work during the semester if we aren’t gifted with rich parents (which is currently my situation too), it doesn’t say good things about the mentality of our government: if you can’t handle school and work at the same time, you’re not worth the trouble. (And to anyone who truly believes that university isn’t that hard, let me ask you a few questions: have you gone through university? recently? And if you answered yes to both of those, are you on something or are you a robot? (It’s possible: many of the brightest minds could be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome which is associated with a laser-focus on one particular field; they also often lack many physical and/or psychological needs that most people have, which is often what makes the time-crunch of working and going to university so unbearable)

    The best for students to not get bogged down and distracted by having to work is to provide them with enough assistance to help them with tuition, books, courses with extra fees, food, lodging, amusement and emergencies; obviously there would need to be an extensive audit to determine the amount of assistance they ought to be entitled to, but a cap at $800 (which, thankfully, would increase parallel to the tuition hikes) is ridiculous. People have real needs that cost money, and they shouldn’t have to get distracted by working if it’s not necessary (maybe only if the money-spending is TRULY superfluous). That’s why my idea is to make the people who can afford their education and everything that comes with it pay for their tuition, including the hike; however, for those who can’t afford it, students should be entitled to greater assistance that is easily accessible (which also includes a streamline method of determining what bursaries and scholarships one is/may be entitled to), even if it comes to that student effectively not having to pay for tuition (or better yet, like some countries: get paid to go through education). In addition, more money ought to be invested in the schools themselves, its programs, services, and especially the teachers: they deserve far higher salaries than that which we offer them.

    Now, this is all fine and dandy, but we would need to pay for that too; after all, Quebec has an enormous debt that needs to be taken care of. The truth of the matter is, is that there are many ways to tax different peoples to generate that much revenue (as Ant6n noted, raising fuel taxes could help (even though it would further encourage people living near the borders of Ontario and the US to get gas there instead, but then again, THEY ALREADY DO THAT!); further increasing the sales tax; creating a new highest-income tax bracket (similar to that which one might find in the US) and further increasing income tax rates along an inverse-variation graph; further increasing transit fares (which could theoretically go toward more services that are not necessarily dependent on government subsidization); increasing “sin taxes” (as I like to put them), such as alcohol, cigarettes, and (hopefully soon) cannabis.

    These kinds of measures are what define our society: how much we care about our needs vs how much we care about others’ needs. However, regarding education, more accessible education benefits EVERYONE in society. It’s almost like the Prisoner’s Dilemma (I’ll provide a variation to demonstrate my point more effectively): if the ringleader and accomplice stay silent after robbing a bank, the ringleader gets a year in prison and the accomplice, 6 months; if either secretly rats on the other to the police, the other gets 2 years while they only get 3 months; if, however, they BOTH secretly rat each other out, they both get 5 years in the slammer. However, regarding education, it’s as if the judge let them both know her sentencing criterion, the two conspire their decision and the ringleader STILL insists on ratting the accomplice out: the rich don’t want the burden of having a higher tax rate, so they’d rather let the poor suffer WHILE THE RICH STILL “SUFFER” BECAUSE OF THE FUTURE ECONOMIC BENEFITS THAT COME FROM A HIGHER EDUCATION. To use this line of reasoning, IMO, could be a form of narcissism: overly-concerned with one’s own needs while not being able to empathize with others to concern yourself with their needs; it also doesn’t help demonstrate foresight, for areas with more accessible education tend to be more attractive to families, which will also draw in the entrepreneurs, people with stable jobs, and people who want their children to follow in their footsteps and go to university and make something of themselves too. More educated workers: better work and economies.

    To conclude this really long post (lol), I propose we raise the tuition rates, but we make financial assistance far more accessible and sufficient for students, both full-time and part-time, so as to give them the opportunity to not feel the pressure of working just yet (they’ll have plenty of time when they’re older, and some older students already have experience with this); in addition, we ought to provide more funding for education in general and authorize the Quebec government to raise our taxes fairly to pay for these benefits so as to allow it to continue paying back its debt in a timely, organized manner.

    A complicated answer to a complicated problem: sounds much better now.

    Reply
  4. ATSC

    How about this calculation.

    $325 tax tuition hike this year.

    $325 + 365 days = 0.89¢ a day.

    $325 + 12 months = $27.08 a month

    Give up some of your Starbucks Coffees, or your Couche-Tard case of beer.
    Better yet, why don’t you apply at Starbucks or Couche-Tard for a part-time job.

    Maybe then they’ll see how much of their pay cheque will disappear to taxes. Perhaps their point of view will change.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Give up some of your Starbucks Coffees, or your Couche-Tard case of beer.

      And what about those students who don’t drink Starbucks?

      I went to university for five years, and never once bought a Starbucks coffee or a case of beer.

      Reply
          1. ATSC

            Everybody blows money on things that they don’t really need. But rather want.

            Do people really need a iPhone, and that oh so expensive phone package? How about that iPad?
            How about going to that over priced concert! How about smoking? How about fast food? Drinks with friends every week-end?

            All of the above are not really needed.

            I’m sure students can look at all their expenses, and find $325 that gets wasted on things they don’t really need. If your education is important to you, then you should cut back on un-needed things.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Everybody blows money on things that they don’t really need. But rather want.

              So therefore raising prices never has a negative impact? Couldn’t you make the same argument for raising everyone’s taxes to pay for education?

              Do people really need a iPhone, and that oh so expensive phone package?

              I’m not sure what “oh so expensive phone package” means, but phones are somewhat of a necessity, and many young people don’t have landlines anymore.

              I’m sure students can look at all their expenses, and find $325 that gets wasted on things they don’t really need. If your education is important to you, then you should cut back on un-needed things.

              The proposed tuition increases would bring Quebec tuition to more than $3,000 a year. How many students who have little or no income do you think spend $3,000 on “un-needed things”?

              Thinking that students can pay for their education by just buying less beer is like thinking that politicians can eliminate budget deficits by paying themselves less.

              Reply
          2. ATSC

            If a mobile phone is a necessity, then pick up a $15 a month Unlimited Public Mobile package instead of a Android or iphone package so that you can log into your Facebook account and be with your hip friends and share the latest viral youtube video.

            Raising prices (artificial through taxation) has a negative effect. The average working person in Quebec has had their taxes raised left and right directly or indirectly. This part of the society is tapped out. And by the way, this part of the society effects GDP. The students, on the other hand feed of this GDP. When they get out of school and enter the job market, they then can contribute to the GDP. At this point, they do not. And the already subsidized education they get is there to help them enter the job market. Not to hang around school for years on years.

            Your $3000 figure for a school year is peanuts compared to the real world. $250 a month. $57 a week. $8.21 a day. Any lower and they’ll qualify for the $7 a day daycare. Because, they certainly are acting like infants these days.

            Do you have any idea what is charged out there to send an employee to a training course? Just so that they can continue doing their job? A decade ago, the firm I was working for was charging $1500 a day. Per person. And all expenses associated with this day was added onto the bill as well. The students have a full year of services. As well as subsidized student loans.

            Now I don’t want to turn this into a students need to pay all the costs of their education. But, these rates need to rise in order to be more in line with the present day costs.

            “Thinking that students can pay for their education by just buying less beer is like thinking that politicians can eliminate budget deficits by paying themselves less.”

            I like this quote. So I’ll take it out of context :}

            You bet I do. And this will need to be the next group that needs to have their belts tightened up. Everything from salary, pension benefits, expense accounts. You name it, it needs to be reviewed, and cut.

            So you see, I’m not against the students. I am for the control of the public purse.

            So, perhaps your next blog article can be on the Quebec deficit (including the municipalities). And how this is all making this entire society poorer.

            We have had major job looses announced the Montreal area this past week. I think students complaining why their post high school education isn’t all out free is way out of line.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              If a mobile phone is a necessity, then pick up a $15 a month Unlimited Public Mobile package instead of a Android or iphone package so that you can log into your Facebook account and be with your hip friends and share the latest viral youtube video.

              Isn’t that just what a lot of students are doing? I would imagine a large part of the user base for cheap cellphone plans are cash-strapped students.

              The students, on the other hand feed of this GDP. When they get out of school and enter the job market, they then can contribute to the GDP.

              Then isn’t it in society’s interest to make that easier for them?

              Your $3000 figure for a school year is peanuts compared to the real world. $250 a month. $57 a week. $8.21 a day. Any lower and they’ll qualify for the $7 a day daycare. Because, they certainly are acting like infants these days.

              I don’t see what tuition has to do with daycare.

              Do you have any idea what is charged out there to send an employee to a training course? Just so that they can continue doing their job?

              A lot, I’m sure. And it’s the employer who pays the cost, not the employee. Isn’t that an argument in favour of free education?

              Reply
    2. ant6n

      Two problems
      - you assume all students go to starbucks, which is wrong at best
      - the debate is not about the 325$ for next year, it’s about the 1625$ for five years from now. This also means that students today are protesting for accessible education for students tomorrow, so telling today’s students to re-arrange their budget is irrelevant.

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        No it isn’t irrelevant. It’s called growing up. And facing the realities that await them.
        They want a education, well lesson 101, learn to live within ones means.

        And this fake concern about students five years from now, is just a smoke screen for the same old demands that other segments of society fork up more money.

        We are all paying more for everything. And those students will have to accept their share of those costs.
        And for your information, even $1625 five years from now doesn’t sound expensive. And be happy with $1625 in five years from now. This is the Quebec Liberal parties plans. If the CAC wins, that figure may end up even higher. And the PQ can promise anything they want right now. But once they get into power…well I’m sure you know how the it works. Promised made, Promises! what promises?

        Quebec is a Nanny state. And it’s time for the nanny to go, and the children to grow up.

        Reply
  5. Viorel Moldovan

    Quebec students have had it too good for too long. They already have a practically free education compared to the majority of the western world. Although i agree with their right to protest i don’t agree with them commandeering the downtown and making the shop owners and staff suffer, these protestors are also putting peoples lives at risk as ambulances cannot get through to people quickly enough in the event of accidents, heart attacks etc as streets are blocked off. These protests must cost a fortune to police and always spawn anti-social and criminal behaviour , i have personally seen hooligans vandalising property and running around with weapons. Finally anyone committing crimes deserve all they get at the hands of the police. Finally do these students think we should make their education free and take money away from Quebecs hospitals which are already in dire straits. I for one hope Charest sticks to his guns.

    Reply
    1. Alex L

      Students also thought, beside hospitals, to steal some money from the poor people in Africa. They also thought of killing seals with machetes to fund the education system. And there’s more coming on.. A bad, bad person we are, responsible for all bad stuff that is happening in all the world.

      However, that « western » world needs to include other states than the United States and Canada. Funny that, when compared to the majority of those countries, the actual tuition fees in Quebec suddenly seem high:
      http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/education/201203/04/01-4502296-droits-de-scolarite-eleves-le-quebec-deja-dans-les-premiers.php

      Cheers,

      Reply

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