Saturday, January 07, 2006

Higher Spending

Although most of it got lost in the press during what was one of Paul Martin's worst weeks as Prime Minister, the Liberal post-secondary announcement on Thursday is a step in the right direction. Paying half the first and final year of tuition will help encourage University accessibility, and the more University educated students Canada produces, the better educated workforce we'll have. And, as Martha said before she was hauled off to the big house, that's a good thing.

What I'd really like to see would be a joint federal/provincial initiative to provide cheap and high quality University access to all Canadians. It would take a lot of money, and a lot of effort by everyone involved, and it's certainly not something you can announce during an election campaign. But I would hope that whoever wins this election sits down with the Premiers on the issue and tries to find a solution. Preferably one that amounts to more than a cash transfer to students or provinces.

Despite that, it's nice to see some focus on the issue. I think we can all agree it's at least as important as the blogs of Liberal officials or how much various leaders "love" Canada.

27 Comments:

  • I proposed open-access and universal post-secondary education, modelled after what most European countries have been doing for decades, several months ago and was shot down by Liberals and lefties alike.

    By Anonymous AlbertaAvenue - The Voice of Alberta, at 4:18 PM  

  • This education spending announcment is flawed. First, education is primarily a provincial issue. Since each province has different policies towards tuition levels, it would be more efficient to increase education transfers to the provinces and allow them to allocate the funds. Secondly, Martin seems to be missing the brilliance of a federal system. Provinces can implement programs differently, and yet the country will still function has a whole. Martin's plan treats Canadian from different regions unfairly because it will exceed the cost of tuition in Quebec and cover little more than half my cost here in Alberta.

    Finally, in repsonse to the first comment on this post, the European model is being abandoned. The UK is introducing tuition, as well as Germany and France. The reality is that a combination of funding sources for post-secondary education is the best way to guarantee high quality education that will prepare Canada for the future.

    By Blogger Jamie, at 5:09 PM  

  • Yes, but the tuition fees introduced are "ridiculously low" compared to Canada: approx. EUR 600 in Austria or GBP 2,000 in the UK.

    Yes, there are also European institutions charging a lot more, but the vast majority of schools over there show that it can be done in a reaonable way (who, for example, could have a problem with EUR 600, which is not even C$1,100!!!).

    So, when you write that Europe is "abandoning" its system, please tell the whole story.

    By Anonymous AlbertaAvenue - The Voice of Alberta, at 5:22 PM  

  • They couldn't have picked a worse day to announce thier post secondary plan. They should have announced it not on a day when team canada was playing and grabbing all the attention and headlines.

    By Anonymous chris, at 5:40 PM  

  • Ah, for the good old days when I was a student at Memorial University and Joey Smallwood brought in free tuition and a monthly stipend of $100 a month for university students. It didn't last long and we were an ungrateful bunch. Many of us worked to get him ousted from power because he had been around too long. We thought it was "time for a change"

    By Blogger cardinal47, at 6:21 PM  

  • Did the Liberals not announce the same plan last time around?
    What happened to that?
    It seems like just more talk not a priority.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:25 PM  

  • Having watched the announcement live, my first and enduring impression is that this is laughable. The so-called "50-50" program, which will cover half of a student's tuition cost in his/her first year and half the cost in the last year, is actually a 25% program and will do little to assist many low-income students who are already feeling the pinch of rising tuition costs. Giving the kids $6000 over four/five years is simply not going to placate many people I know many people who are upset that tuition costs have more than doubled at UBC-O in the past five years, and I can bet that this assistance, while appreciated, will still not be sufficient. What are they supposed to do for the second, third, and sometimes fourth year of their program? Rack up more horrific student debt?
    Also, the program does not take effect until the 2007-08 year. This does nothing for students who are beginning their programs next year (2006-07) and they will not benefit from this program for at least two years. In the same line of thought, given that this is yet another backloaded Liberal promise, based on the duration of the last minority Parliament, it is unlikely that the government elected in this term will even be in office for the start of that academic year (and the way this election is going, it won't be a Liberal minority anyways). The problem with this timetable is that the months prior to the fall of the government will be full of the same rancor as we saw last semester, and thus election promises will not make it through the legislative process in time before Parliament is dissolved.
    My early prognostication is that this announcement will amount to very little, if not nothing at all.

    By Blogger RGM, at 9:08 PM  

  • It's better for people to be educated than not educated, but not all education is equally valuable. If the government were to put more money into education, they should acknowledge that there are already too many people with social science degrees in this country, and not nearly enough plumbers, welders and electricians, to say nothing of physicists, doctors, and electrical engineers. Money ought to be distributed accordingly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:45 PM  

  • "The Canadian Federation of Students, however, was unimpressed and said the Liberals have still not lived up to a 2004 promise to increase transfer payments for postsecondary education by $4 billion.

    This announcement does nothing to advance the discussion.

    These guys promised the money in 2004, reneged, set aside the cash with the gallows out front of the Parliament building 2 months ago, and finally roll it back in with other funds and put lipstick on it when the polls go south.

    Remind me again how this relates to serious discussion?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 PM  

  • The quote above end with the first paragraph. It is from the Spectator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 PM  

  • I would be more impressed with the federal government putting its substantial financial heft behind a debt forgiveness program. Sort of like Harvard does with its endowment (other ivy leaguers too). I hear they're smart people with similar values who have thought about how to address accessibility for several decades.

    That way it's means tested from the get-go (unlike Martin's plan), targets those who complete school (unlike, partly, Martin's plan), and its greatest strength comes in enabling grad/post-grad/professional study (DRAMATICALLY unlike Martin's plan).

    For examples of where the model has worked as a public program, Australia has had it for some time, and the UK implemented it a few years ago.

    Most notably, Bob Rae in his acclaimed study for the Ontario government proposes a variation of it.

    So, a. why isn't Martin taking good advice from prominent people, and b. why isn't Harper stepping into the gap to do so now that Martin has dropped the ball?

    To comment on a couple of the preceding comments, I've attended a French university (veeerrry old, prestigious, and one of the top 5 in the country for its program). It *sucked*. I know this because, aside from the inability to afford toilet paper, etc. - I shit you not - professors would mock it and the French system during lectures (i.e. "on est quand même une université française").

    So, I prefer a quality system where if I want to go to school, I have to organize myself and my finances to get there. Not my parents' finances, and not the finances of my unborn children or my unmet spouse, but mine alone.

    By Blogger matt, at 10:57 PM  

  • ug. at some point tomorrow, we're going to finish our critique of the Liberal PSE plan. Though it's by far the best plan out of all the parties so far (the ND's haven't released their plan yet), the Liberals 50/50 plan will only shift things around, making things either the same or marginally better for students (we'll explain when we post - probably tomorrow).

    And yes, Paul Martin promised a 7-8 Billion Dollar PSE transfer back in 2004 and we have yet to see any action on that one...

    By Blogger daveberta, at 12:27 AM  

  • alberta ave - "the Voice of Alberta" (is that supposed to be like the voice of God or something?)

    In a way, many European countries are abandoning the old system and implenting major system reforms (Sweden, Czech Republic, UK, and Germany are only some examples).

    That said, countries such as Finland, which provide low tuition and many non-repayable grants to Finnish students, are some of the most economically productive countries in the world (Finland has the right to an education preserved in their consitution!).

    D

    By Blogger daveberta, at 12:33 AM  

  • daveberta,

    If you think you're contradicting me, you are not. This is what I mean. Tuition does not have to be high, and access to post-sec ed should be much wider and more open. You yourself cite Finland as being extremely productive thanks to low tuition and such, and that's also what I am saying. Europe shows us that you can have world-beating unis without going overboard on tuition fees, and I studied at a European uni, which, incidentally, beats the crap out of any US or Canadian uni in that particular program - so much so that the UN, for example, waives the competitive exam requirement for graduates of my school. This waiver, however, does not apply to any US or Canadian school (and one such program, in California, charges a hefty fee per year and still is not in the same league).

    By Anonymous AlbertaAvenue - The Voice of Alberta, at 1:07 AM  

  • It is widely accepted that the reason society subsidizes post-secondary eduction is because there is a societal benefit of having an educated population. So I think it is a fair question to ask how much does society benefit and how much does the individual benefit. Currently, society pays 75% of the actual cost of a university education. In other words it is the academic equivalent of a 75% off sale at your favorite retail outlet. A pretty good deal no matter how you slice it.

    I would argue however that universities have become soft on academics and heavy on sex and beer. We are churning out far too many geography and history majors who spend most of their university experience at the campus pub - I should know, I was one of them. In this case society is subsidizing liver disease and STDs.

    But here is the real argument against the heavy subsidization of tuition. My wife taught physics at a native university and found it very difficult to motivate the students who paid nothing to be there. If you don't invest financially in your own education then you won't invest as heavy intellectually.

    By Blogger ferrethouse, at 1:28 AM  

  • I'm not real clear why the CPC education policy isn't considered viable - there's a tax break for bursaries & scholarships (up to $10k tax free) which would encourage effort (high grades to get the scholarships, I'm assuming). There's a break for books.

    These breaks (at least the book ones, I'm not clear on the bursary/scholarship one although I think it is also annual) are annual. The Liberal ones you have to (a) complete (not necessarily a bad thing) and (b) go to a school with tuition of $6k a year (which apparently, from blogs I've seen, is not a given) to get the full benefit.

    The CPC plan on bursaries says "first $10k" which to me, implies, that if your tuition is 10k, and you have a bursary to match, you are homefree. The Liberals, on the other hand, would tax it.

    Please bear with me. While I'm not a student, my kid will graduate in 6 years and become one, so I'd like to figure this out.

    By Blogger Candace, at 2:02 AM  

  • I think it is a grand idea to want to help out students so they don't come out of university with huge loans. However, let me just put a slightly different perspective on this. I am a parent of two children (21 & 18). Both children inherited money from their grandmotther when she passed away. We prudently put that money into RESP;s for both of them. Our 21 year old frittered that money away and after flunking out of U of C in year one, took a year off and is now enrolled in BCIT. He has just cleaned out the RESP and still has a year left in his program. He never denies himself dinners out, bought lunches on campus, movies, concerts, the latest clothes, snowboarding equip, etc. He will no doubtedly have to take out a loan to complete his studies as he is incapabable of sacrificing his lifestyle to save for his education.

    Our 18 year old is at UBC, she has studied hard, received scholarships and has saved what little money she earns in her part time job. She does not spend her money frivilously. She packs a lunch every day. She often stays in on weekends. And she rarely spends money on new clothes - instead waiting for birthdays or Christmas. Needless to say, so far she has not had to touch her RESP - it may well last her the entire 4 years of university.

    As parents, we;ve tried to instill a sense of responsibility in our kids. But we've seen first hand, that when one of our children was handed the money for his education, it seemed to hold little value to him.

    I fear that the Liberal 25%/75% plan, although well intentioned, is just another government hand out. What will my 18 year old learn from this when her brother will be bailed out at the last minute - despite his lack of planning, and irresponsible choices?

    What about the hardworking kids who scrimp and save and sacrifice for their education? It is human nature to value and cherish something that one has strived for rather than something that was given to you.

    By Anonymous Mom, at 2:14 AM  

  • Richard,

    "In the same line of thought, given that this is yet another backloaded Liberal promise, based on the duration of the last minority Parliament, it is unlikely that the government elected in this term will even be in office for the start of that academic year (and the way this election is going, it won't be a Liberal minority anyways)."

    Sort of like the Conservatives and their GST reduction within 5 years?

    Politicians run hoping to get a majority... their platforms should represent a majority situation... how pissed would we be if all the parties only put forward a 2 year plan and then we elected someone for 4+... oops.

    On the flip side I think there should be a law against parties making promises that fall outside of a majority mandate... now THAT is misleading.

    By Anonymous andrew, at 11:26 AM  

  • mom,

    "I fear that the Liberal 25%/75% plan, although well intentioned, is just another government hand out. What will my 18 year old learn from this when her brother will be bailed out at the last minute - despite his lack of planning, and irresponsible choices?"

    This money hardly comes close to paying for everything... so if you're worried that students will suddenly get a free ride... THINK AGAIN.

    How do you feel about the fact that tuition has more than doubled in the last decade?

    http://www.voteeducation.ca/english/issues.php

    Average Tuition in Canada
    93-94 = $2,023
    05-06 = $4,214

    Was I asleep when my income doubled over the last decade... oh yeah it didn't.

    A 3 year student will pay $8,428 VS $12,642... oh and a decade ago they paid $6,069.

    A 4 year student will pay $12,642 VS $16,856... their cost was $8,092 in 93-94.

    PLEASE don't give me this BS about students suddenly getting a free ride... it's disgusting when older people who benefited from a MUCH lower tuition rate rattle on about how in their day they slaved + paid their way bla bla bla... ENOUGH.

    By Anonymous andrew, at 11:46 AM  

  • Andrew, first of all you quoted me as saying it was the Liberal 25%/75% plan. That in and of itself proves I don't think the students will be getting a free ride. It rather pointedly shows the Liberals are disengenuous in calling it a 50/50 plan.

    I'm sorry you didn't see that I was writing from my heart, as a parent. I've seen one of my kids piss away the opportunity that was GIVEN to him. And I think that now that his money is gone I hope he is learning the value of having to earn the money to pay for the rest of his education, take out a loan and maybe have to live a bit more frugally.

    I don't like seeing kids get overburdened with student loans. Something should be done to alleviate that. But my frustration is that i've seen first hand a kid who just didn't 'get it' - and one that would clearly take advantage of the government hand out without sacrificing something of his own.

    Remember, I'm not just some old cranky person harkening back to the days I walked up hill both ways to school. I am this kid's mother. I am the one who wants to see him become a productive, contributing, responsible member of this society. Government handouts just enables him to keep on spending, spending, spending.

    Make it needs based, make it a lower interest loan, I don't know what the right answer is - but just handing it to him doesn't seem - to me - to be the right way.

    By Anonymous mom, at 2:58 PM  

  • This was probably the most overlooked part of the announcement, yet one of the more imporant ones:

    Expanding grants for low-income students so that their tuition will be subsidized for four years of university study, rather than just one, at a cost of $550 million over five years.
    --From the Globe and Mail

    The "50/50 plan" is fine. But, along with the students who need the grant the most, it's also subsidizing those who really don't need it, namely students coming from high-income families.

    I agree with those who say the real problem is that the government isn't restoring the core funding it provided the provinces up until Paul Martin cut it in the mid-90s. This has more to do with rising tuition than anything else.

    By Blogger Jeremy, at 4:41 PM  

  • mom,

    "Andrew, first of all you quoted me as saying it was the Liberal 25%/75% plan. That in and of itself proves I don't think the students will be getting a free ride. It rather pointedly shows the Liberals are disengenuous in calling it a 50/50 plan."

    I don't quite understand how you figure re-naming it the 25%/75% plan somehow makes it less of a good idea.

    "I'm sorry you didn't see that I was writing from my heart, as a parent. I've seen one of my kids piss away the opportunity that was GIVEN to him. And I think that now that his money is gone I hope he is learning the value of having to earn the money to pay for the rest of his education, take out a loan and maybe have to live a bit more frugally."

    Doesn't his school have minimum grade standards etc... that's how the system deals with irresponsible kids.

    "I don't like seeing kids get overburdened with student loans. Something should be done to alleviate that. But my frustration is that i've seen first hand a kid who just didn't 'get it' - and one that would clearly take advantage of the government hand out without sacrificing something of his own."

    How is it a handout exactly? In the end they're going to pay a lot closer to what they should be paying at this point for tuition if fees were raised gradually with inflation etc... vs a massive increase which is what really happened... were kids who went to school in 1993 getting a handout?

    "Remember, I'm not just some old cranky person harkening back to the days I walked up hill both ways to school. I am this kid's mother. I am the one who wants to see him become a productive, contributing, responsible member of this society. Government handouts just enables him to keep on spending, spending, spending."

    He'll learn that lesson really fast when he finishes school + needs to work to pay his bills... it's going to happen... don't worry so much.

    "Make it needs based, make it a lower interest loan, I don't know what the right answer is - but just handing it to him doesn't seem - to me - to be the right way."

    I think there are definitely things the gov could do to improve things for under privileged students and that sort of thing... but that's a different issue... this plan is basically rolling back tuition fees for everyone... to where they should be... I mean it's still quite expensive... when you're in school full time + you're paying rent... it's pretty hard to come up with even $2K for many students... not to mention this plan doesn't cover year 2 or 3.

    To end things off... the average student debt is now $25K when they finish school... I remember reading that it was about $2500 in 1993... how is that fair exactly... have student incomes increased 10 times... um not as I look at my pay cheque.

    By Anonymous andrew, at 12:11 AM  

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