News Article

Education crucial to prosperity - but how do we pay for it?

Posted: October 03, 2012
Posted in: Breaking News, education

Knowledge Bureau Report readers do not dispute the value of education; it is the future - for our children and our country. And most agree that affordable post-secondary education is important if we are to have a world-class workforce and a vibrant economy. But not all agree Canada's overburdened taxpayer should bear the cost.

KBR's September poll noted that the pressure to increase university tuitions is growing if universities are to meet the cost of infrastructure and curriculum improvement. That would make university educations inaccessible for lower-income families. So, the poll asked, "Should university tuitions remain low in order to accommodate all students?”

Of the 129 readers who responded, a resounding 71% agreed university tuitions should remain low and accessible for lower-income families. But even among the 29% who voted "No,” their aim was not to deny lower-income families access to education but to find creative solutions to the growing cost of education.

Judging by the more than 70 comments left on the Knowledge Bureau website, readers link education and prosperity, both at an individual level and a national level. As Larry said: "Higher education leads to prosperity for our nation.”

And whether they are in the "Yes” camp or the "No” camp, readers believe no one should be denied an education because they don't have the money. As accounting professional Trenholme Lodge says: "Education is the country's future and should be available to all at a low cost. This country needs this approach.”

Zafar agrees: "We need an educated Canada and post-secondary education must be accessible by the poor.”

Adds another reader: "Of all the things that our governments waste money on, education is not one of them. We need all children to be able to receive a good education and not have the barriers of high tuition costs keep them from pursuing their dreams.”

No one disagrees with that sentiment; the greater concern is how we, as a society, pay the growing cost of post-secondary education. "The taxpayers can only afford so much,” says a reader from the "No” camp, "and we already do subsidize post-secondary education.”

As Beatrice Grant put it: "We live in a world today that cannot continue to subsidize and put governments in the red. We have to pay as we go along — and this goes for students in university.”

Some readers suggested that one answer is to cut administrative costs, and some perceived professors are paid too much while some believe that if we want to attract top-notch professors, universities need to pay them more. Many believe there should be more merit-based scholarships and grants that will help students shoulder the cost of a university education. And some mentioned the value of programs that blend paid work and university attendance.

Another solution, said other readers: make student loans more accessible by raising the family-income ceiling for loans and by lowering the amount of interest changed on the loans.

Dave McGruer suggested something more radical: "Universities should be cut loose from government controls so they can flourish on merit and in economic reality. Competition will ensure quality and allow for different cost models to flourish.”

Whether education is free or low-cost, readers agree it should be universally accessible. The quandary is just how to deliver high-quality education that is affordable.

Knowledge Bureau Report would like to thank all the readers who responded to the September poll. We look forward to your comments to our October poll.


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