EDITORIAL: Tuition costs barrier to upward mobility

by | Apr 11, 2019 | Editorial

Every year, from Grades 1-12, with every report card, the refrain is always the same.

“If you don’t get good grades, you won’t get into a good college.”

Or else its close cousin, “How can you get a good job, if you don’t get good grades?”

It is universally agreed that one of the best ways to ensure your success in life, you have to get a good education. A high school diploma is no longer a guarantor of a decent living.

Apprenticeships, trades, and post-secondary education are increasingly becoming necessary for good work that provides a living wage. In our modern world, that means going on to post-secondary education after high school.  

And that begs the question, if post-secondary education is so important, why is it so expensive?

Even before the newly proposed changes to OSAP and tuition announced by the government last January, post-secondary students in Ontario paid some of the highest tuition in Canada.

In this academic year, StatsCan shows Ontario students pay tuition fees far in excess of the national average, ranking third for the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and legal studies.  It is second for the physical and life sciences and technologies programs, and first for business management and public administration.

It is now when most Grade 12 students are receiving their post-secondary admissions, but they are having to do so under a cloud of doubt.

The province has yet to fully update its formula used to allocate assistance for the upcoming school year. This is forcing many students to either accept, only to find out they can’t afford to attend over the summer, or forgo their chances at college, because they know they can’t afford to attend.

The recent U.S. college admissions scandal reveals the importance placed on post-secondary education. People are now desperate to ensure they have a chance at a better life through post-secondary education, regardless of the cost or the consequences.

Students are struggling to make ends meet on daily expenses. Paying for textbooks, school supplies, lodging and commuting to and from campus, while working and juggling various responsibilities is common.  

More people are going to college and university than ever before, and this has the effect of making the job market more competitive.  This compounds the stress having to pay off loans and expenses.

Completed or not, students in Ontario will be saddled with a mountain of debt upon leaving school. In Canada, 43 per cent of college graduates leave school in debt.

With the elimination of the six-month grace period for interest on provincial loans, this forces new graduates to take jobs for which they are overqualified for, or underqualified. 

It is clear a changing economy and the changing needs of the job market have made post-secondary a de facto third stage of compulsory education. What may have sufficed in the past no longer applies.

All of this could be relieved if we followed in the footsteps of Norway, Finland, and Denmark, and offer fully paid, publicly funded post-secondary education.

Why should we pay for post-secondary education, when elementary school, middle school and high school are legally mandated, and free? It no longer makes any sense for us to continue paying thousands for such a necessary part of our education.

Post-secondary education has stopped being a domain of the rich. Many see college and university as a way to improve their lot in life, and the makeup of our colleges and universities have become more diverse in race, class, wealth and need. As a result, the high cost of tuition only serves as a barrier towards further education, and leaves hundreds at a disadvantaged.

By fully funding anyone willing and able to learn, then we can take a huge burden off the backs of students, allowing them to find the work and experiences needed to succeed in their field of study.

Without the dread of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt hanging over their head, graduates have the freedom of finding work they want to do, rather than have to do.