With the provincial election getting ready to kick into gear back in Newfoundland, I am perking up a little more about what's being said. Yes, there is this minor patronage controversy, but I honestly think no one will give a shit about this. It's not going to swing any votes. It's the type of controversy only reporters and political junkies really care about.
Having said that, the notion of free tuition, as proposed by the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students or bringing back student grants as proposed by the NDP, certainly caught my eye.
Mainly because they're both pretty stupid.
I have some knowledge about this as I was involved in student politics for awhile in the mid-90s, including serving on the CFS national board of directors for about six months until I came to my senses. Look, I know CFS is a lobby organization and there's a provincial election happening. So yes, they're going to lobby the parties to try and get things that will benefit students. I understand that. It's their job.
But free tuition is what you want to shoot your load on?
OK, first thing first. The poll saying 80 per cent of people support free tuition is bullshit. I'm sure 80 per cent do. I'm also willing to bet you would get similar numbers if you poll people if they want magical fairies to arrive at their house and perform oral sex on them. Ms. McCormick argues this means Newfoundlanders want this. But I wonder if the poll asked what priority Newfoundlanders place on getting free university tuition. I'm betting it's not even in the top 10.
Free tuition has always been a dumb idea. And don't point to Europe because what works there doesn't mean it will work in North America. I am absolutely convinced free tuition would be abused and a post secondary education would not be taken as seriously as it should be. I know people who dropped $20,000 in student loans and still spent most of their time in university fucking around and didn't even graduate. Hell, my last two years at MUN, where I was spending my own money, was essentially me screwing around because I was having to much fun at the Muse and I had a girlfriend I didn't want to leave behind when I graduated. Now if people are willing to waste their own money, or money they're going to have to pay back, imagine what they'll be like with free money thrown at tuition.
Free tuition will not help produce more quality graduates in Newfoundland, which ought to be the goal. It'll get more people in university, but that doesn't mean they'll graduate, and it doesn't mean you'll get a more educated workforce.
Why CFS is choosing to focus on this, instead of improving the quality of education, or working on forgiveness after graduation, which are both achievable goals, is beyond me. You keep your powder dry for an election, and this foolishness is what you choose to blow it on. Dumb.
As for the NDP and grants....sigh...Grants were a mess back in the early 90s when they were finally phased out. I'll bet they would be the same now.
Because I think you should try and offer up some solutions rather than just shooting down other peoples...here's my idea.
If you complete your degree in a reasonable manner (a four year degree should be done in no more than five years barring medical/family crisis) then you get a percentage of the money spent on tuition refunded to you. This happens if you're on student loans or not. There's no reason why if you manage to pay your own tuition and get through university that you shouldn't get the same breaks that someone who pays for their education through loans. Let's say a one-third tuition rebate.
There you go...you have a tuition freeze right now. Tie any future increases into the projected inflation rate over a five year period so students can budget how much tuition will go up while they're at university. You get a refund upon the timely completion of your university degree. You have student loans to assist while going to university. By god, if you can't get a university degree and manage your debt upon graduation reasonably with all those breaks, then they should probably take the degree back from you.
1. Hey Jude - The Beatles*
2. So distant - Matt Mays
3. I'll cry instead - The Beatles
4. Fully completely - The Tragically Hip
5. Three sunrises (live) - U2