A recent study from the Higher Education Strategy Associates found that when faced with a complete picture of the financial health of a given post-secondary institution, about half of students would accept a tuition increase. Only one in six said a tuition freeze must be maintained at all costs.
This strikes me as a little odd. If students really are OK with meeting universities half-way when it comes to balancing budgets, why is there so much unrest and outrage at tuition increases that are set to happen this fall in many parts of the country?
The study revolves around the idea that education of core issues is necessary for participation in wider discussions. If students don’t know how bad a university’s finances are, they can’t sympathize with the need to cut programs or raise fees.
That being said, just because a student sympathizes with their institutions plight, doesn’t mean they have to sympathize with its cause. The root cause is declining government subsidy. That’s what students have widely been protesting in Quebec, Nova Scotia and most loudly in the U.K.
As governments place less and less priority on public education, forcing it to privatize, students are forced to pay out increasingly large user fees. These fees are then loaned to students through highly bureaucratic organizations like Canada Student Loans.
Governments in the western world have decided that they have a role to play in public education. But they’re slowly pulling back to a regulatory and assistance-oriented role, rather than a funding role.
That slow privatization is what’s pissing off students and igniting protests. It has nothing to do with sympathy for their university’s finances, but everything to do with privatization.
Some services help the wider good more when they are public than private. Health care, sewage, and roads are good examples. Education is another. The depth of my pockets should never dictate the depth of my knowledge.