Volume 96, Issue 76
Thursday, February 13, 2003

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Tuition freeze: the policy of fools

From the far lane
Emmett Macfarlane
News Editor

Although many students might not like to hear it, the government should not impose a tuition freeze.

Two weeks ago, the Ontario Liberals released the post-secondary education section of their election platform, advocating an immediate tuition freeze. A week earlier, the University Students' Council called for a "fully funded" tuition freeze (which was essentially a call for full funding to universities for each enrolled student, as well as a freeze in tuition).

Sounds just peachy, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

Over the course of just a few years, the cost of funding a tuition freeze becomes increasingly higher because of a magical thing called inflation. Under a freeze, more and more government cash is funnelled into keeping tuition suspended rather than putting it towards more productive things, such as hiring new faculty to keep the student-faculty ratio down, keeping existing buildings maintained and replacing some of the library books (like the ones that are so old they explain how leeches are applied to purify wounds or marvel at how great Stockwell Day will do as the new leader of the Canadian Alliance).

British Columbia had a disturbing experience when its government froze tuition not too long ago. The newly elected Liberal government discovered it could not afford to keep the reckless NDP policy in place, and when they were forced to lift it, students were in shock because they saw tuition levels skyrocket. B.C. tuition will continue to increase in leaps and bounds until they reach a level in which the province's universities can afford to operate at the level of universities across the country.

Currently, Ontario has capped tuition increases at an annual rate of two per cent. This is a much more reasonable policy, even though the average student doesn't like to see his or her tuition rise by a few hundred dollars every year. It allows what limited government funding there is to go where it's needed.

This is not to say there should be any deregulation of undergraduate programs. Law and medical schools have seen tuition rates go from $10,000 to $14,000 in a single year without regulation, and this is clearly unreasonable.

Some on the extreme left want to see tuition rollbacks – as in having the government fund reductions in tuition – but unless we want all of our universities to be of a quality comparable to the Sahara Desert School of Ice Cube Making (or Brock), then people should realize the rollback idea is a na•ve one.

None of this means that individuals lacking the proper finances for tuition should not get access to university. OSAP could definitely be revamped to make it easier for students who need loans to get them. But, as much as some people would be happy with the huge tax increases required to fund a sustained reduction in tuition rates, most people don't want more than half of their pay cheques going to the government, as would be required to do so.

People opposed to even inflationary increases of tuition are already using the term "two-tiered education" to describe what they perceive as a problem with student access to the system. What this really represents is the problem left-wingers have created in Canada: two-tiered intelligence.

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