Thursday, November 6, 2008

Drop fees, raise standards

If you've been on a college campus recently, you will surely notice the plentiful Drop Fees campaign material. The CSF's relentless campaign to get tuition fees in Ontario lowered has come back reliably every year, inspiring some students to activism, and irking others (the general argument being that lower tuition fees mean a devalued degree).

Myself, I have felt somewhat ambiguous about this. It's true that tuition fees in Ontario, when compared with the rest of Canada, are pretty high (although still next to nothing when compared to, say, the US). Right now, I am paying just under $5 000 per year in tuition fees for my BA; if I was a resident of Quebec and studying at U Montreal or U Laval, I'd be paying just under $2 000 for the same thing. Yes, this means higher taxes for the citizens of Quebec, but if I was a baby boomer, one who anticipated retiring in the next decade or so and expecting to need doctors, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, law enforcement professionals, and above all, CPP contributors, well, I would understand the need to fork over part of my paycheque for education.

Yesterday, November 5, my school like many others joined in the rallies, marching from the atrium of the university centre to downtown Ottawa. Some students came up with an innovative way of advertising the march: sidewalk chalk. Chalked messages covered a number of surfaces around campus, like the one I saw in the quad this morning:

If you're worried about lower tuition fees devaluing your degree, I propose a solution. Let's campaign for lower tuition fees in Ontario -- and higher admissions averages.

(Either that, or better education in our high schools. After the "literacy test", the obsession with the five-paragraph essay, and teachers who act more like baby sitters than instructors, it is a wonder than anyone graduates with any academic literacy at all.)


Brad said...

Of course the undergrad degree will be devalued, just like the high school diploma no longer means anything. Before long, you won't be considered educated without some grad school, and people won't be living as real adults until they're 30. I see it as an example of a Red Queen Effect, where the assumed need for education has become an unwinnable arms race that will continue expanding with no gained benefit- unless we all clue in and refuse to play along. The solution isn't to drop fees, or raise standards- WE MUST ABOLISH UNIVERSITY.

Rally info TBA. :)

Reb said...

What do you propose we replace university with? I mean, sure, my BA in English doesn't really qualify me to do anything, but what about the engineers, doctors, architects, etc ... I sure as hell want them qualified.

Brad said...

We will replace it with dignified, quality living.

Engineers and doctors and architects are basically the only professions that defenders of university ever cite, so maybe they're just the few who actually do benefit from it. Though I guess it could shift more to apprenticeships and employer-provided training that teaches strictly job skills, rather than all of this "well-rounded education" nonsense. What did they do before modern universities were established? People have been doing large scale architecture/engineering projects for thousands of years.

Reb said...

Before universities, we lived in squat dwellings with thick walls and tiny windows, and an ingrown toenail meant amputation.

Keep in mind there is also a connection between literacy rates, education levels, economic development, and overall quality of life. (Example: In Man's Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl identifies a stronger incidence of survival in work camps for those who are well-educated than for those who are in good physical health.)

If, however, you think Cuba's population is a good model of dignified, quality living, then sure abolishing university is a good idea.

Brad said...

What is that supposed to mean? Cuba has many universities, and a high literacy rate.