The Higher Education Strategy Associates and specifically Alex Usher feel that Canadian Students (in higher education) have it better than any generation previously according to their publication Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition.
The arithmetic put forward is quite simple:
- Canada pays over $10 Billion on student assistance every year, according to their study. From what I can see of their graph about $3.5B of that is in loans. (2011-12)
- Canada’s Universities collect $7.37B in fees from students (2011-12), I am glad to see they didn’t use only Tuition numbers, but the Caubo Study is more of a balance sheet with all income from students included.
An interesting little bit of arithmetic (note I do not call in Mathematics), but a little simplistic in some ways as well.
Data ignored in this study are:
- Accommodation and living expenses, how many students live away from home ? One might argue 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 really mentioned. Yes, many E-books should be cheaper, but from my small sample they really aren’t (but I do agree they are easier to pack up at the end of a school term).
The student assistance model seems to have a flawed assumption that all the “$10B” is offered to every student, which is really not so.
- 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.
- Then we have "...universities collectively gave out just over $1.5 billion in scholarships...", again 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.,)
- Grants? "... $350 million for provincial merit grants and tri-council scholarships ..." , again many kids are excluded from those grants because their parents are too affluent, and thus the student is not deserving to receive that grant.
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 worrisome concept, in my opinion.
My real 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.