Who’s right on accessibility?
A recent study by the Educational Policy
Institute has brought to light discrepancies between statistics
from universities and student lobby groups when it comes to
the cost of post-secondary education.
According to the study, when inflation is taken into account
the cost of attending university was more expensive in the
1960s than it is today. Furthermore, according to another study
conducted at the University of Toronto, the current year’s
student body has seen a 15 per cent increase in the number
of undergraduate students from low-income families (under $50,000/year)
from the previous year. There is also a 35 per cent increase
in the number of doctoral students from the same financial
background from last year.
Taken together, these studies suggest that more students from
lower income famillies are finding means to pay for post-secondary
Why is there such a great discrepancy between what these studies
and lobby groups are telling the public?
Student lobby groups such as the Canadian Alliance of Student
Associations and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
have been campaigning for years by stating that the cost of
post-secondary education has skyrocketed over the years, making
education more expensive now than it has ever been. Lobby groups
claim that two-thirds of all students who drop out in first
year do so because of financial reasons.
Western has a policy that states that no student will be denied
access based on financial need. Clearly, this statement is
convenient media fodder, but how many universities actually
put their money where their mouth is? There have been cases
documented in which students have been told that if they cannot
afford university, they should not be attending.
Truth is desperately needed in this situation, but it’s
nearly impossible to find it in all the rhetoric. Universities
and lobby groups present numbers which buttress their arguments,
and avoid those statistics which may present them in a shady
light. Both sides that are involved want to promote their own
agenda: student lobby groups love fighting “the man,” while
universities are corporations that love feeding it.
What the issue requires is an independent organization without
a vested interest in either side to determine the actual state
of affairs with regards to the cost of post-secondary education
and its effects (Note: this is not the government).
Regardless of which numbers are accurate, both sides should
be looking at providing students with affordable post-secondary
education. Hiding behind numbers or statistics is not an acceptable
solution, and the goal of providing affordable and high quality
education needs to be pursued “at all costs.”