Should university and college tuition be free?
The president of the Nova Scotia Community College says that’s a question people should be asking themselves because 89 per cent of jobs in the province will require a post-secondary education by 2011.
“What if Nova Scotia decided we would be the first jurisdiction in our country where post-secondary education was free? And what difference would that make to making a creative economy?” Joan MacArthur-Blair said Tuesday during a meeting of the legislature’s standing committee on human resources.
“I think it is a radical statement because in order to do it, all of us individually would have to step forward because we are all taxpayers to bear the burden of that.”
NSCC spokeswoman Stacey Baillie said the figure of 89 per cent was reached by the school’s researchers using Statistics Canada numbers. She said as of May 2007, 82 per cent of jobs in Nova Scotia required a post-secondary education.
The committee heard that 58 per cent of high school graduates go straight into the work force after graduation.
Health Minister Chris d’Entremont, a member of the committee, said providing free tuition would be “very, very expensive” and not realistic right now.
“We would also have to be very sure what the outcome would be and I don’t know what that outcome is just yet,” he said. “Will we be able to employ all of them? Will we be able to have those people working in the new economy in Nova Scotia? What exactly does the new economy in Nova Scotia look like?”
But New Democrat MLA Marilyn More said it is an idea worth considering.
“I think it could be a very important plank in the poverty reduction strategy for this province,” she said. “Obviously providing post-secondary education to a larger number of Nova Scotians could have a huge, tremendous impact on both our economy and people living in low-income circumstances.”
Ms. More pegged the cost of providing free tuition to the NSCC at about $13 million and $20 million a year over the next few years. The school collected $13 million in tuition in 2007.
Liberal MLA Leo Glavine said he likes the idea of free tuition for both universities and community colleges.
“I think it is of tremendous value to take a look at in Nova Scotia,” he said. “A highly educated society is absolutely critical to our future.”
Mr. Glavine said he wished the province used some of its offshore royalties for “something dramatic like” free post-secondary education, but he then said it is even more necessary to pay down the provincial debt.
“While I personally would like to see more going into educating the next generation of Nova Scotians, the reality is we have ... to get our debt under control,” he said. “So (free tuition) may not be that realistic.”
Ms. MacArthur-Blair said the college “tries to twist and turn in every possible way” to keep financially strapped students in the programs — whether it’s deferring fees or giving them special bursaries or finding emergency funding. The school’s base tuition is $2,600 a year.
She said in 2006, 91 per cent of graduates were employed and of those grads, 93 per cent were living and working in Nova Scotia. Nearly 80 per cent of students working in Nova Scotia were employed in the county or adjacent county to the campus where they got their education, she said.
Ms. MacArthur-Blair said the college intentionally aligns itself with the economy of Nova Scotia, providing education in fields that need workers.
“Our students know that when they leave us for the most part there is a job here and if they choose to travel the world, travel Canada, that becomes a personal choice, rather than a forced choice,” she said.
Well I got one, and the friends I have who dropped out of high school..... they're getting paid more then I am..... Does this make sense? Now here they are already starting their families, no loans and tuition costs to be dangling over their heads everyday of their lives, getting paid more then I, and I was the idiot who got suckered into the hype that a 2ndary education would make me go further in life......
.... hell, I haven't seen one employer in the last decade of me working actually look beyond what was written on my resume. I could have said I went to Ronald MacDonald's Clown College and they still wouldn't have verified it. My friggin Diplomas arn't worth the damn paper they're printed on, let alone the thousands of dollars I threw into this crap on things I could have easily learned online for free (All the books I learned from are online, I found them myself and downloaded them.... page for page, picture by picture.)
Health and Education should be always free.... they help to better our society as a whole and are needed for a productive life. To exploit these needs to make a buck is and always has been wrong.