Editorial Board 1998-99
Free tuition! Where do we sign up?
According to provincial Liberal party leader Dalton McGuinty, if his party is elected to power, this very premise could become a reality for Ontario's medical school students. OK, so what's the catch?
According to McGuinty, his party is proposing a new system which would enable students to have their tuition paid for by the Ontario government in exchange for promising five years of medical service in one of the province's under-serviced rural areas. Not quite as generous a deal as "free tuition" but a potentially winning option, nonetheless.
Currently in Ontario, over 78 rural areas do not have the significant medical services needed to meet the demands of the area's inhabitants. This is a serious problem.
While it is easy for urban dwellers to turn a blind eye to a problem which does not seem to effect them directly, this is a province-wide issue. One of Canada's most internationally cherished principles is the access of universal health care for its citizens. For many rural Ontarians, this fundamental right is being compromised and the service provided is simply inadequate.
At the same time, Ontario's medical students have been faced with the unpleasant reality of increased tuition rates over the past few years. By giving new students this option, a future in medicine may seem more realistic than originally anticipated.
While some may feel this is an unfair proposition, as it resembles a form of government extortion, the key word is OPTION. New medical students will not be forced to practice medicine in rural areas. They will be presented with another option to loans and bursaries, while they are providing Ontarians with a necessary service.
With the province's population continuing to age and the cost of medical tuition on the rise, this seems like a win-win situation. For those students who are hard-pressed to pay their tuition, this should prove to be a viable and sensible opportunity. Those who find the thought of practicing medicine in a rural area unappealing, are entitled to use the other means available to them. The choice is theirs.
Nobody can be proud of the exorbitant tuition fees which medical students and other students of professional programs have had to dish out as of late. Students and politicians must continue to fight and protest these increases until a viable solution can be reached. Until then, providing options for students which benefit themselves and the community are certainly steps in the right direction.
Besides, the guy on Northern Exposure learned to enjoy it.