Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Stop marching and get back to class

Today is the big day. The day that the Canadian Federation of Students rallies the troops out of classrooms and up to parliament. They cry for lower tuition, spouting their utopian ideas that education should be free. Wah wah wah.

The CFS is not run by students. It's run by people who make a salary to do so. And on the tuition invoice, students pay fees to the CFS. If they really wanted to eliminate fees for students, they'd cut the money going into their own pockets first. Personally, I'd much rather pay tuition here than try to go to school in the states and pay anywhere from $20,000 - $40,000 per year.

My story is this:
I completed my Bachelor of Arts and post-graduate at the University of Western Ontario. I have seen how students live. I have been there. I have had friends that have worked their asses off to get their education and I have seen others run out of money several times only to get more loans and keep on with the partying/shopping/skipping school, etc. I had a couple roomates who had approximately 10 hours of class a week and still had "no time" for a job. In my post-graduate year there were weeks where I would work full-time hours at my low paying job to pay for the nearly $10,000 tuition. And while I am often idealistic, on this issue I am quite practical. I do not support the Canadian Federation of Students and their whining.

My parents cut off my allowance when I began highschool and taught me the value of money. We invested wages in RESPs and other investments, I got OSAP, and I worked a lot of hours. I sacrificed weekends to work and spent many nights pulling all-nighters to get papers written once I had gotten home from working an eight-hour shift. Though I was not always perfectly responsible with my money, I didn't go on vacations for Reading Week, didn't go out partying every night, didn't eat out all the time, etc.

Reading the Globe and Mail this morning online, I was quite pleased at many of the comments readers had left on this article.

I agree that post-secondary education is an investment and I also agree that students have to start holding themselves accountable for their own decisions. No one forced you to go to university, you made that choice for yourself. And for those who complain that they have no choice but to go to school since you virtually need a post-secondary education to get a job... imagine what it would be like if education were free. If education were free, everyone and their brother would have a B.A. It's bad enough as it is, hence why many feel they need a Masters degree to compete in the job market these days. Education is like other investments (ie. real estate, stocks, etc.), each person must assess which investment is most appropriate for them.

Universities are expensive to run. A recent Globe and Mail article contained an interview with the head of Concordia University (who has had a tuition freeze for some 13 years) and pointed out that this has not done the University any favours:

In an interview yesterday, Dr. Lajeunesse acknowledged that his speech is bound to ruffle some feathers, especially among student groups. But he said universities are struggling to provide a quality education.

"We're falling behind. We see our faculty-student ratios increasing, we see the cleanliness of our classroom and labs deteriorating, we see our libraries unable to provide as much as we would like," he said.

"The first people who suffer from lack of funding are the students, because they don't get the education that they deserve to be good citizens and be successful in life."
Exactly. To get the best education possible, it is necessary to have good teachers, to have accessible TAs who are available during office hours, to have a library full of resources and labs filled with equipment. All of these things cost money. It costs money to have people clean the school. Students rally behind professors who demand more wages and strike against the university and then don't like the increase in tuition to pay those salaries. How ironic.

Why should taxpayers (many of which do not have a university education) be left to pay the tab of university students, be they responsible students or not?

My parents weren't overly wealthy. My siblings and I all had to work for what we got and make our own decisions accordingly. And because we had to foot the bill, we cared a whole hell of a lot more about the decisions we were making. We know how much money goes to waste when you skip a class, or the value in studying something that you care about and can find a job in post-graduation.

Life is all about choices, folks. Better to realize this in university than to graduate and expect everything to keep falling in your lap. I do agree that universities should be accessible, but there is a big difference between being free and being accessible for those who do deserve it. And for those who are fighting a tuition freeze for this reason, my suggestion is to rally universities/the government for more scholarships for deserving students rather than to try to give your bill to someone else. Or, try fighting for more internships to create a bridge from university to the work force, perhaps. Fight for students who really can't afford the tuition hikes, the single mothers working and trying to get an education to better support their kids. An across-the-board cut to tuition doesn't do anyone any favours. If anything, the help should be going to those students who truly need and deserve it -- not those that are just looking for a free ride.

There are plenty of options out there other than getting a university degree. Want a good paying job? Pick up an apprenticeship for a trade. Ridiculously in demand, ridiculously good jobs.

No comments: