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Canajun Finances Home » Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition?

Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition?

The Higher Education Strategy Associates and specifically Alex Usher feel that Canadian Students (in higher education) have it good. In fact, better than any generation previously according to their publication Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition.

The arithmetic put forward is quite simple:

An exciting bit of arithmetic (note I do not call in Mathematics). A little simplistic in some ways as well.

Are We Graduating a Generation of Debtors ?
Are We Graduating a Generation of Debtors ?

Data ignored in this study

  • Accommodation and living expenses: how many students live away from home? It is the student’s choice to move away from home to study “abroad” as it were. However many programs are only offered in specific places, and Canada has many Universities, but not one in every town.
  • Books and similar supplies are not mentioned. Yes, many E-books should be cheaper, but from my small sample, they aren’t . I do agree they are easier to pack up at the end of a school term.

Flawed Assumptions

The student assistance model seems to have a flawed assumption that all the “$10B” is offered to every student, which is really not so.

  1. They mention "...$350 million or so in First Nations Band Funding under the Post-Secondary Student Support Program ...", my kids (and a majority of students) have no rights to make claims against this.
  2. Then we have "...universities collectively gave out just over $1.5 billion in scholarships..." these are not necessarily available to all students, some are Merit-based (i.e. marks), some are activity-based (athletes, volunteering, etc.,) and some are Academic Area-based (e.g. Scholarships specifically for Electrical Engineering students, etc.,)
  3. Grants? "... $350 million for provincial merit grants and tri-council scholarships ..." Many kids are excluded from those grants because their parents are too affluent, and thus, the student is not deserving of receiving that grant.

Comprehensive but Naive

I am not really disputing the numbers, I think the studies are quite comprehensive, but also naive in my opinion. I do like the follow-up article by Mr. Usher Good and Bad Arguments Against Education Tax Credits.

Most of my readers already know my opinions of the sometimes oppressive costs of Post Secondary Education. Check out my RESP menu item and scroll down a bit. I think the statement about Net Zero Tuition is hokum, but I do agree Canada tries to make Post Secondary Education less fiscally destructive than in the U.S., but I think Canada can do better. A University Graduate with $50,000 in debt to start paying off the day they graduate is a problematic concept, in my opinion.


My opinion is that post-secondary education should be available to anyone who wants to do it at no cost. I guess that is my Quebecois roots showing⚜️.

Given the cost of student loans, and tuition I think Mr. Usher was attempting to pander to his more conservative readers.

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  1. Yeah, “at no cost”, because I just LOVE paying for a bunch of other peoples’ kids to get BAs classical painting. Sure, why not pop out a few more babies? Other people will foot the bill–sounds fantastic. While I appreciate our public schools and believe everyone is entitled to a decent basic education, higher learning (on a public teat) is a luxury. Say, I have three kids none of which decide to go to university but instead go into private business or two-year community college. Do they get a cheque for public money too? For the cost difference? Why not?
    I understand why countries like Costa Rica might do this, because university there is probably only $5,000 for the whole shebang and they desperately need a higher educated overall population, but here? Nah. You wanna go do something with your time as an adult, pay for it yourself!

    1. Well that is one point of view. What about folks who want to be Medical Doctors, Engineers, Architects or other professions then? They should just fend for themselves?

      I do believe the “trades” programs at most community colleges are full, and they can receive support as well. If these folks want to better themselves so much the better.

      As for YOU paying for it, over half of this money is in Loans, so you are actually investing (and getting a not bad return on your money). The folks who get grants are either Aboriginal, of Meager Means or Very Strong academically.

  2. Tuition is less than half the cost of University for anyone who isn’t living under their parents’ roof. Bet Crooks has a nice idea to cap student loans at tuition (maybe tuition and books). Student athlete scholarships only cover tuition and books – they’re on their own for room & board.

    Also the way the loans are delivered is not very smart as you get a large lump sum in September, presumably to pay tuition, followed by another lump sum in January. The problem is that students spend like rock stars at the start of the year and then starve by November. Why can’t they auto-pay the institution for tuition and then set up a monthly payment for the rest, a la programs like UCCB and CCTB?

    1. I think the direct tuition pay is the default for OSAP loans, you have to tell them NOT to give it to the institution, so they have that part right. Remaining moneys is still paid as a lump sum unfortunately, so that they still get wrong.

    2. “The problem is that students spend like rock stars at the start of the year and then starve by November. Why can’t they auto-pay the institution for tuition and then set up a monthly payment for the rest…” No, actually the problem is the students are not prepared for life after home… They wee never taught about fiscal responsibility, and if we set up the system for them so it works better, they won’t learn it… At what point in life should people learn to take responsibility for their actions? If we as parents don’t teach our kids the ins and outs of fiscal responsibility while they are young and under our wings, it is the school of hard knocks that will teach them. Now if the system were set-up to be the parent for these supposed now fledglings free to leave the nest, what good does that do? it only delays the set-up for failure, but now at a worse time, when they are further along in their misaligned ways… Am I wrong with my thinking on this? – Cheers.

      1. Hi, Phil! I think few people are well practiced in handling a large lump sum of money and making it last. Almost all the money any of us ever receives arrives in the form of weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payments: pay cheques; pension cheques; dividends (monthly, quarterly or annually); etc. So it may be expecting quite a lot to take a student who is just learning how expensive life really is and hand them a lump sum rather than a monthly pay cheque.

        The only time I ever got a chunk of money at one time was when I got a good income tax refund: by then I was already working and getting a steady pay cheque to budget around for the essentials. It’s possible I might inherit something one day, but I doubt it given my family’s excellent health and the increases in the costs of living vs their pensions.

        Certainly many lottery winners don’t seem to do well when given a large lump sum. I think that’s why the “payments for life” style of lottery is getting promoted more in some areas. It’s depressing to see someone who won $1 million back at work because “it’s gone.”

        Most of the uni students I’m related to and their friends are working and contributing. It’s still the common way to fund university. But the costs of tuition, books and housing in many university towns have skyrocketed in the past few years and minimum wage hasn’t. And the double scourge of “unpaid internships” and “temporary foreign workers” has wiped out many of the typical low-wage, flexible-hours jobs that students relied on to get their beer and rent money.

        I’m rambling. Sorry!

        1. Great point Bet… handling of lump sums… I guess I overlooked that since I have handled some fair sized work accounts in my former life. I guess how can parents or schools teach this to our kids, if the majority don’t have good money habits or understand of how to optimize it’s us to achieve longer-term goals. I’m smelling opportunity! Need to think more on this one. Great topic bigcajunman. – cheers.

  3. What happened to the days of actually saving for post education? also, what happened to the key point that it is schooling, and as such most of your former life WILL need to be put on hold while you attend? My wife and I are both university grads, and managed to come out of the system with minimal debts and decent prospects as we chose fields for which we knew there were jobs available. I saved for money to be able to attend university for 5 years prior to going… This money basically covered first year costs, but I also found and had 3 part time jobs while attending university. This planning and responsibility formed who I am today, and can account for money savvy now. My wife wsas one of the lucky ones, with a nice scholarship, but at the same time, still worked part-time during school to pay for the education. Post- secondary education is not a right. We need to help those that WANT to go, don’t get me wrong, but the student is the one that needs to understand that if they want it, they need to work for it and put in the time and effort. Sorry for my rant, but today I have met far too many young’ins who feel entitled to this experience instead of truly wanting to get educated as a result of this extra schooling. – Cheers.

  4. I agree that there needs to be some more tinkering done with university costs.

    I also don’t like (a) student loans requiring interest as well as principal repayments and (b) the way they loan to students which does not encourage thoughtful reflection on whether certain courses are going to lead to employment that pays enough to re-pay the loan and whether the money is really needed in the first place. (I never borrowed money to buy pizza or beer; that seems to have changed.)

    It seems that some students are being encouraged by the loans system to continue to live an upper-middle-class existence while at uni, and then are having to live a *below* starving student existence for years after graduating to pay off those debts and their interest. If the loan was capped at something low (perhaps tuition?) it might reduce this problem.

    Either way, I think there are likely great potential students who aren’t going to uni because they’re afraid of the cost. That’s wrong and it needs to be fixed.

    1. When I was in school, some of my classmates used their “extra” student loan money to go on spring break trips or other luxuries because they thought if they didn’t use all their loan up, they wouldn’t get as much the next year. It really was a backward way of thinking!

      These days, it seems that a lot of “wants” have become “needs” — like a car, nice clothes, smart phone, condos with all the amenities. Not everyone comes from families who can support a middle-upper class lifestyle for a student living away from home.

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