This is a response Carter West’s Comment piece this week
Last week, Pauline Marois and her PQ party achieved a minority government in Quebec. There are some who are quick to blame students, saying that their pressure ousted Liberal Premier Jean Charest. This is an oversimplification of the facts.
Charest’s government was marred with allegations of corruption and his disapproval rating was at 70 per cent. Furthermore, the student movement did not back a party, and the priority of most voters was said to be health care, not education.
My colleague argues that education is expensive. I concur, but I do believe we can afford cheaper education, if we make it a priority. The scandals of the past few months have proven that the provinces have plenty of cash, and that it’s just being wasted. Ontario ranks last of all provinces in per-student funding, and tuition fees have increased astronomically in the last few years, at a much higher rate than inflation. Before Mike Harris took office in 1995, tuition fees were around $2,500 per year. We can afford lower tuitions — the question is, do we want to?
According to my colleague, the answer is no. Post-secondary education is a privilege, and students must be expected to sacrifice to get it. The problem with this argument is that those with money will not have to sacrifice to get an education — the sacrifice will fall only to those without. Is this the society we want? At the moment, there are grants and loans available to students who need them, and that’s great. But these provisions are not nearly enough, and many students fall through the cracks.
Students who work multiple part-time jobs to pay their tuition might disagree with the notion that they are an entitled generation and that they don’t sacrifice enough. I agree with the concept of sacrifice, but collectively. Post-secondary education is an investment in the economic future of Ontario, and all Ontarians must pitch in.