Canada needs a new post-secondary plan

Why we can relate to the student protests in London.

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

By Tristan Johnston
[staff writer]

On Nov. 19, university students in London marched towards Parliament in protest of tuition fees. Thousands came out from all over, including as Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds. Organizers claim that over 10,000 protesters came out, making it the largest student protest since 2010, when higher fees in the U.K. were introduced. There were some “scuffles” with police, as some protesters broke down barricades and threw paint at storefronts and police.

Overall, the majority of protesters were peaceful, and speeches were made by Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett from the Green Party. Protest signs had messages like “Free education, tax the rich,” “Cut war, not welfare,” and “This is getting silly.”

England, Wales and Northern Ireland have tuition caps of 9,000 pounds per year, or roughly $16,000 Canadian. Scotland has free tuition, as do many countries in the EU and EFTA, such as Germany, Denmark and Norway.

We have had protests like this in Canada as well. Students in Quebec protested for months during 2012 in what they called the “Printemps érable,” or Maple Spring. Even though Quebec has had the lowest tuition fees in North America, nearly 200,000 students protested on March 22 of that year. Ultimately, the tuition hike was halted by newly elected Parti Quebecois in their provincial elections. Could this happen anywhere else in Canada?

The average tuition fee rate for Canada is $5,959 during 2014-2015, or $5,118 in B.C. For the 2013-2014 year, UBC had an average tuition of $4,794, while Kwantlen was $3,855, according to the B.C. Ministry of Education. All over Canada, tuition fees have tripled over the last 20 years, beating out inflation.

Many European nations have it right. Free tuition benefits everyone. The populace becomes more educated, reduces the need for immigration of skilled workers, and increases consumer spending. It’s much easier to get people to spend money when they don’t have to worry about debt or tuition. It can even be argued that it facilitates better class movement, allowing people from poorer backgrounds the chance to do better. Some countries take it to a whole other level, with Finnish students sometimes being paid to go to school. However, it’s hard to imagine such a policy happening in Canada, at least with the Liberals or Conservatives.

Thousands of Canadian students will be loaded with debt by the time they finish university, and most of them will be slowly paying it back for years to come. Having this burden lowers the financial security of an economically pained generation.

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