FAL X99 September 2014 Critique Assignment Article
Four Reasons Why University Education Should Be Free James Maclean, Associate Professor
Memorial University, Canada
1. Canada has committed itself in a legallybinding international treaty to abolishing university tuition fees.
Canada signed and in 1976 ratified (thereby giving it the force of law in Canada) the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In this treaty the contracting parties commit themselves to "the progressive introduction of free education" at the postsecondary level, in conformity with their promise that "Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all" (Article ...view middle of the document...
Their debts upon graduation are on average close to $28,000 before interest payments, and typically $10,000 more including interest. In Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nova Scotia, the average student debt on graduation is about $35,000, while in Quebec, with its lower tuition fees before 2012, it has been about $15,000.* These debts must be borne by a generation of graduates for whom finding suitable, longterm employment is not always an easy task (hence the title of the Globe and Mail article cited at the bottom of this page: "Debtridden and unemployed").
3. Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, and can afford postsecondary education for its young people as easily as (or, in many cases, more easily than) other countries that do not have tuition fees.
In many countries of the world (for example Argentina, Ecuador, France, Sweden, Finland), some of which are significantly poorer than Canada, there are no tuition fees or only small registration fees for citizens attending public universities.
It is reasonable to ask whether it is more helpful to the population of Canada to spend tax revenues paid by Canadian citizens on free postsecondary education, or to spend tens of billions of dollars on a war machine that does little or nothing for Canadians, such as the $28 billion (according to the Rideau Institute) on the failed invasion of Afghanistan, and on the deaths of all the Afghans and Canadians this war has killed. Or, to cite other examples, does it help Canadians more to spend $35 billion on new warships and as much again on new warplanes, when Canada
FAL X99 September 2014 Critique Assignment Article has not had to defend itself against an invasion for two centuries and when no one is threatening to invade the country? It is also reasonable to ask if universities could not themselves ensure that their internal spending choices give priority to academic programme expenses over, for example, promotional and management expenses. In short, the claim that Canadian governments and universities "just cannot afford" free tuition is groundless.
4. With regard to qualifications for employment, one or more university degrees are today the equivalent of a high school diploma forty years ago.
There are many careers requiring today one or more university degrees that previously did not: those of elementary school teachers, nurses, accountants, information specialists, etc. Therefore the proportion of the age group graduating from university today is even higher than the proportion graduating from high school forty years ago, yet no one suggested forty years ago that students should have to pay for their high school studies. According to certain governments in Canada, 70% of new jobs require postsecondary education, and half of Canada's university graduates return to university to obtain a second degree in the hope of finding decent employment.
In summary, it is clear that today postsecondary studies fall...