Tuition Increases

Tuition rates should increase. Especially in Quebec (if you haven’t been following recent Canadian news, the short story is that there are currently student riots in Quebec about tuition).

The following graph contributes to an understanding of the current situation, where Quebecois students pay significantly less than other undergraduates across Canada for tuition:

Tuition Rates by Province – from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/09/16/university-tuition-fees-rise-again-statscan/, based on data from StatsCan.

The data in this graph is the basis for many complaints heard across Canada that Quebec tuition rates are too low. But that’s not the real problem with Quebec tuition rates. The real problem is that opposing the tuition rates hurts the very people that it’s meant to protect. As Higher Ed Strategy points out,

“between the tax credits and the grants, low-income students will be better-off after the increase than they were before.”

This is a sentiment also explained in this article in the Globe, which points out that

“Low tuition essentially provides subsidies to those individuals who can well afford to pay more, along with those who truly need the assistance. Since higher income groups are still more likely to send their children to university and because university students, on average, go on to much higher earnings than others, this is akin to a regressive tax that favours higher income groups. A much more effective – and fairer – policy is to specifically target those students who truly need financial assistance.”

This is the heart of the problem. By making those who can pay, pay higher tuition rates, we increase the burden on those who can pay and increase aid available to those who cannot – which is exactly what Jean Charest is proposing. Student leaders and activists in Quebec are literally hurting those whom they are purporting to help.

Higher Ed Strategy has an interesting solution to this: cut tax breaks for students. That is a roundabout and potentially effective strategy, but allowing for – necessary – tuition increases is probably a better way to combat the actual problem. It might even help disprove the assertion – held by some on the left – that protesting every government policy is a good idea.

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