I'm quoted in an upcoming issue of Maclean's discussing student debt arising from professional degree programs. The article was written by by Kate Lunau, a talented young journalist, who also wrote the great cover story from last week's Maclean's discussing the mental health crisis at Canadian post-secondary institutions.
Tuition levels continue to skyrocket across Canada and far outpace the rate of inflation. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a landmark report this week called "Eduflation and the High Cost of Learning" which traces the incredible damage being inflicted on young people vis-a-vis a failing post-secondary education strategy that has downloaded the cost of learning onto students and their families.
This push is rooted in neoliberal ideology which holds that education is essentially a personal investment devoid of wider social benefit, students should bear the costs themselves, and that post-secondary education's aim should be to train workers. Curiously, politicos like Glen Murray and talking heads such as Margaret Wente selling this false prospectus benefitted hugely from publicly subsidized education in the post-war era and never had to take on a small mortgage before they had their first job.
The policy of endless tuition increases is inherently unfair and perversely taxes young Canadians who need to acquire credentials to remain competitive in the labour market. Simply put, most students cannot afford these yearly hikes and are incurring massive amounts of debt. This point was not lost on students in Quebec who obtained a total victory over Jean Charest last week when his government was brought down after his summer election gamble backfired spectacularly. Quebec's students and their allies have provided a compelling model that needs to be repeated across the country.
The path that we're on is not sustainable. Education is a public good that has profound benefits for society, but these superlatives are greatly diminished when students are held hostage to market driven demands. It's clear that student debt (and the growing bubble) is one of the great questions facing North American society at present. Placing young people in debt is an explicit choice, it's not a edict from God and is something that can be ended. The problem is well delineated, the task now is how we exit the path we've been on and secure an affordable high quality post-secondary education system that doesn't impede the prospects, hopes, and dreams of the current and future generations.
For more on the tuition issue check out the following: this recent article from the Toronto Star; the CCPA's Education Project; and previous posts on Youth and Work (see: here, here, and here). Also, check out this video about the high cost of tuition in Ontario, see: