September 9, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 6  

Front Page >> Editorial & Opinions > Shoplifting higher education


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Shoplifting higher education

By: Maggie Wrobel

Campus Life Editor

You heard it here first: I'm a thief.

Well, sort of. When I was eight years old I ripped a mini-notebook full of horse stickers out of a horse magazine and innocently asked my mom that "Since I found it on the floor, I can keep it, right?" Of course, my mom saw through my scheme and told me to put it back.

Fast forward to February 2003, when I'm in my third year at Western. I'm sitting in the financial aid office explaining to the financial aid counselor that, shockingly, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) has failed me yet again and I'm unable to pay all of my tuition without help.

I instantly recognized the financial aid counselor's reproachful look after I told her my sob story. It was the look my mom gave me 13 years ago when I tried to "steal" the horse sticker book. In fact, what she said to me sounded an awful lot like what my mom said back then: "If you can't afford to pay for university, then you probably shouldn't be here."

Hearing this initially shocking statement made me cry back then, partly out of self-pity, but also out of shame. I thought she was right. After all, there are many people out there who can't afford post-secondary education and guess what they do? They don't go! They go to cheaper "professional" schools or they get jobs and eventually forget any farfetched dreams they ever had about studying the literary theories of Michel Foucault for hundreds of dollars per month.

Arguably, it's a luxury to attend university. After all, in this space, we get to meet hundreds of like-minded people and have countless educational and entertaining resources at our fingertips.

If you can afford to pay for them, that is.

But what if mid-year your OSAP loan is "re-assessed" and leaves you without enough money to pay off the rest of your fees? What if you know your parents can't help you out financially, but you don't qualify for OSAP because your parents still make enough money "on paper"? Does being trapped in a particular financial situation make you a thief of education?

Someone recently told me that "post-secondary education is not a fundamental right." I guess it's not, but I can't help but feel that more help and sympathy should be offered to those of us that fall short of the increasingly high income bracket necessary to study and party here.




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