By Don McHoull
It turns out President Claude Lajeunesse was right after all.
Last fall, the other campus newspaper lambasted the president for claiming that tuition is no higher today than it was in the 1960s.
But a study released last week by the Education Policy Institute backs him up.
Based on Statistics Canada figures, the study found that – when you factor in inflation – tuition actually fell slightly between 1965 and 2002.
The study also found that the percentage of university students coming from less-affluent families has actually risen.
But the news for students isn’t all good. Although tuition has stayed about the same, the financial burden on students has risen.
The costs of other student essentials, like transportation, food and rent, has risen. And, the study found, students receive less financial help from their parents.
In the ‘60s, most students didn’t have to work to pay for school. Those who did could earn enough money for school by working in the summer. Today, most students work year round.
In fact, another recent study found that 40 per cent of university students can’t graduate on time because they’ve had to drop courses to make time for a job.
Universities are supposed to benefit our economy by producing a steady stream of educated workers. IT seems like a waste to have these workers slaving away at minimum wage jobs instead of graduating.
So what should be done? Freezing tuition has given students a bit of a break, but unless the Ontario government comes up with extra funding to replace the lost tuition dollars, universities will have to cut millions from their budgets.
Yesterday, Paul Martin’s Liberal government offered up its own solution in the form of a new package of financial aid for students.
One real benefit for low income students could be a move to make more grants available to first-year students. Right now many students have to pay for their first year of school with loans, with the hope of securing a grant in later years.
A new system of grants would help some students from racking up a lot of debt in their first year of university.
At the same time the government is trying to help students from middle-class families. A study by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation found that the government had been overestimating how much financial help middle-class students get from their parents. The study found that in Ontario, parents earning under $55,000 actually provide more financial help to their children than parents earning between $76,000 and $85,000.
Recognizing that students debt isn’t just for less affluent students, the government is making it easier for middle-class students to get loans.
The government will also create an education savings bond plan aimed at lower-income families.
While it’s good to see the federal government making this effort, at the end of the day it won’t make that much difference. Education is, after all, funded by provincial government