Volume 93, Issue 88

Thursday, March 16, 2000


Protest was silent, but misguided

Education not material commodity


Cold as ice

Education not material commodity

Re: "Don't bank on student loans" and "A curse or a blessing?" March 10

To the Editor:
With all due respect, I must disagree with the expressed opinions of both The Gazette editorial writers and Mark Kissel, VP-education for the University Students' Council, regarding the recent withdrawal of Canada's banks from the Canada Student Loans Program.

Will this move change the average student's experience? Well, we can hope that there will be an end to the changes brought about during the tenure of the banks, such as the prohibition against the declarations of bankruptcy (soon to be contested in the courts) and credit checks. We can even hope that the government will abandon these policies, which serve to restrict access to post-secondary education. Certainly, this move bodes well for future students.

Are the banks the proper institutions to handle student loans? If, as the editorial writer suggests, we equate education with material objects, such as cars and houses, then the banks would be the appropriate body. However, education is not a car. Education is not a commodity. As the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, education – and access to education – is a right.

In the best of all possible worlds, all one should require to gain an education is intelligence, aptitude and inclination. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world – financial status frequently determines not only the access to education, but also the quality of that education.

However, when financial status overrides all other qualifications, as is increasingly becoming the case in Canada's de-regulated and underfunded post-secondary educational system, then the system itself is imperiled. The values of education and the value attached to education, take a poor second place to those of finance.

The banks' failed experiment with student loans cost the federal government $300 million in risk premium payments to the banks. Arguably, that money could have been used to greater benefit and with greater efficiency, through a system of needs-based grants.

That CSLP will now fall to the embattled Human Resources Development Canada does not inspire confidence. Neither does the fact that our federal government administers education through the Ministry of Industry, rather than through a separate and distinct body. However, in taking back control of CSLP, the government has the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment, as a society, to accessible and affordable post-secondary education.

Susan McDonald
President, Society of Graduate Students

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Copyright The Gazette 2000