Sunday, June 24, 2012

We Should Reduce Tuition Costs for Students.

As Canadians we pay taxes… some people complain about this… I don’t.

The taxes we pay come back to us in many ways.  We receive services and benefits from these taxes every day but we don’t even notice it.

Our taxes pay to have the light bulb replaced on a street light.  They pay for the sidewalk that passes that street light.  They pay for the street that runs beside the sidewalk.  You get the point… all the way up to the people who cut the grass at city hall, the provincial legislature, and the House of Commons.

I think we can all agree, or at least most of us can, that government at all levels needs money to provide the services that we use every day.  There are a few, like Stephen Harper who think there are no good taxes, period.

I guess he forgets who pays for the planes and ships of the military, and who pays his salary.

The problems arise when people complain about the stupid or the wrong places our money is spent.

One of these places that some people carry on about, which annoys me to no end is education.  Usually these are people whose kids have graduated or have no kids (yet) that complain about having to pay for other people’s kids getting an education…

Kindergarten through Grade 12 is provided free because it’s a benefit for all of us.  I don’t care if you send your kid to Professor X’s Academy or if you home school; you still get the benefit of having reasonably well educated people from the public system in your community.  Quit your whining and ante up.

Who is with me here?  Shouldn’t we be able to provide a good education to our Nation’s kids without forcing parents to dole out extra for paper and pens?  It’s a cheap investment in the future of our country is it not?

I’m not going to get into “how our schools are failing our kids” since we are failing the schools by not keeping them up to date physically as well as educationally.

Now I’m going to wade a bit deeper… bests get your bathing cap on…

Do they still make those?

Basically what I’m after at this point is that it is to your and my benefit that the young people coming out of high school be able to read and write and be able to function in our society.  It is to their benefit as well, that goes without saying…

But what about higher education?

We’ve all seen the protests in Quebec.  It all started with a proposed increase to tuition fees and that upset the students.  I don’t blame them, it all adds up and increases the amount of loans they’ll have to repay someday.

Now some folks are saying that Quebec has the lowest fees in Canada, and they are right, but part of the reason is simply because the students there fight the increases better than they do in the other provinces.  Maybe they care more?  I don’t know.

Maybe what we should do is lower the tuition for everyone… to zero.

Before you run off with your hands in the air yelling SOCIALIST and what not, think about it for a few minutes.

Some years ago, a record was set for the pole vault at the Olympics.  When the press interviewed the winner and congratulated him he said that there were probably hundreds of people who could jump higher, but they never had a chance to learn the sport.

How many Doctors and Nurses and Teachers across Canada are not following their dream because they simply cannot afford to?

This is not socialism, but rather capitalism at its most basic level.  In order to become a Doctor you would still have to qualify.  You would still have to have the grades to be accepted.  You would still have to convince the University that you are a good candidate for the program.  I’m just suggesting we remove pre-screen number one.  Can you afford it?

This is the same in most University level courses today.  Space is limited… prove that you are a good candidate.

What would that do for the rest of us?

In Healthcare it would help to lower costs.  If we have lots of Doctors you can phone your GP if you are sick and see him or her within days, maybe the same day rather than have to go to the clinic or the Emergency Room to find out you have the flu.

Quicker access to a Doctor would also mean that you don’t have to put off making an appointment until you are “real sick” and need to visit the hospital for a few days or weeks if it can be caught early enough.

In the bigger picture, what does business look for when they plan to expand into a new Country?  One of these things is available talent, are there enough trained people to support us?  China is producing more Engineers, Doctors, and other professionals and they are attracting business.  Canada, not so much.

They are screaming for skilled trades in Alberta and they are importing talent because we don’t have enough skilled people to meet the need.  How many handymen are there that could have been in the trades if they could have afforded the education in order to earn an apprenticeship?  The days of just “hooking up” with a tradesman to apprentice are long gone.

Foreign students would need to pay, sorry guys.  Maybe your government will pick up the tab.  Students from developing nations could be supported through our International Development Programs.  This would be part of our efforts to be First Class world citizens and likely would qualify as part of our commitment to various Treaties and Pacts to help Developing Nations.

But what would stop someone from getting their education here and running off to the U.S. or elsewhere to ply their trade?  Nothing right now, but I’m sure that most would agree to use their education here first for a period of years before being permitted to take it elsewhere.  Or we could add a provision that lets you pay your shot and take your degree to wherever you please.

I talked with a fellow some years ago who was studying to be a dentist.  He told me that when he graduated here in Ontario that he planned to head straight to PEI because there was a shortage of dentists there.  He did feel a little bad because his courses, like most courses at colleges and universities were [and still are] subsidized by the province, and we were not going to get any return from our investment in him.

You see we already invest heavily into higher education, I’m just suggesting we open the tap a bit more.  We can move from teaching the “best of those who can afford it” to teaching the “best students we have”.  If you kid wants to study Health Sciences (I think that’s what they call it) at McMaster right now, it costs thousands.  Imagine your child being accepted at McMaster and paying virtually nothing because they can stay with Aunt June in Hamilton.

The market will decide which courses people go into, if there are too many Engineers enrollment will decline.  Only people who really want to be an engineer will enroll if the chance of a job at the end of it is slim.  The same goes for any profession or trade.

Another benefit I can see is that many students in the system today see no future in higher education, it’s something that only the rich can enjoy… how many of those kids would apply themselves that much better knowing that if their grades are good and they have the drive that they can go on to be whatever their dream is?

Maybe we could have a few more pharmacists and a few less crack dealers?

It all boils down to where our tax dollars get spent.  Where do we best invest for the future of Canada?  If we spend the money to ensure that all our children get the best education available, including allowing our best and brightest to continue their education fee free to ensure we have the Professionals that we will need in the future, is this not a good place to invest?

I think it’s worth considering.

As always, your comments are welcome…

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