Point • Counter-point: McGuinty’s tuition cuts

Point: McGuinty tuition plan removes barriers to education

University and college, for a lot of families, is a golden gate. Once opened, a student is exposed to multiple benefits: a prestigious university or college education, influential networking opportunities and a wide array of social interactions. Post-secondary studies are the backbone of Canadian society.
However, there are many young adults who, when approaching the idea of university, cringe at its mention. This is primarily due to the financial aspects of pursuing a post-secondary education; for some students, it amounts to a fortune. Still, there is one agenda at the forefront of the provincial election that tackles this issue. One of the main propositions by current Premier Dalton McGuinty and his band of Liberals is a 30 per cent tuition cut, approximately $1600 a year per student, for post-secondary students whose families earn a combined total income of $160,000 or less. This plan has potential to be a revolutionary policy, changing the way that Ontarians view post-secondary education.

The first and most prominent benefit of this proposition is the fact that it gives more students who don’t have the financial aid necessary to pursue post-secondary studies the chance to obtain higher education. There is a well-known gap in post-secondary education participation rates among families of different socioeconomic backgrounds and over the past 40 years, students have become more reliant on employment rather than family contributions, as stated by Statistics Canada. Therefore, any cuts to tuition are clearly beneficial for the majority of students who want to pursue their dreams.

This tuition cut would not only potentially increase post-secondary participation in Ontario, but also help students who are already enrolled. As I stated before, many students are working part-time to maintain their level of studies, and undoubtedly this affects an individual’s priorities between school and work.

However, as tuition decreases, these students would be able to focus more greatly on their education rather than worry how to finance it.

Still, one major question with this proposition is, how do the Liberals plan to finance this move? If you look at their provincial party platform, clearly there are limited ways the Liberals are planning to finance this without raising taxes, despite their claims to refrain from raising taxes any further. Ultimately, this will upset a lot of voters. However, from a different perspective, taxes are the necessary evils of investing in our province’s future.

Therefore, while an increase in taxes may seem like a bad idea now, in the long run it will definitely enhance this way of living and our future economy.

Firstly, through increased taxes, students themselves would be able to pay back these cuts slowly just through paying taxes on a daily basis. In my opinion, this tuition cut can also be seen more like a loan than a bursary. In terms of families and adults who are already in the workplace, the benefit of this proposition is a better future. The increase of post-secondary education among Ontarians will help the economy as higher earnings generated will flow back into the economy through consumerism on multiple levels — higher taxes paid, increased consumption and increased savings.

Undoubtedly, a slash in tuition prices is beneficial for every level of society in the long run. As a student, this tuition cut is music to my ears.
With the ever-rising prices of this university education, I cringe as I see the debt that I’m starting to accumulate.

An extra $1600 a year may be a small amount when compared to the overall expenses involved. But still, who can turn down “free” money?

-Keithana Senthilnathan

Counter-point: McGuinty tuition plan is fiscally irresponsible, adds to Ontario’s debt unnecessarily

After eight years in office, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have announced a plan to cut tuition by 30 per cent by handing out $1600 to students who come from families earning incomes of less than $160,000. This accounts for roughly 86 per cent of students. The Liberals predict that this will cost the province $486 million per year. At first glance, this may seem like a great deal for the typical university student but after some more thought, it is apparent that this election bribe is not as beneficial as it may appear. This policy will add to Ontario’s staggering government debt, is fiscally irresponsible and will damage our post-secondary education.

The problem with such a promise, and all similar promises, is the question of where the money comes from. Obviously it comes from the province coffers, but before we plunder public funds out of our own self-interest, we must remember that those funds come from all people of this province, including your classmates from high school that chose to enter the workforce instead of pursuing post-secondary education.

I have a friend who decided against going to university. The thought that I should use the collective force of the state to harvest money from him and line my own pockets with his money seems immoral. I fully understand that the use of collective force will never disappear from our government but we should work towards limiting it.

Morals aside, the other problem we are about to encounter is the fact that the province is running out of money for new expenditures. Our province is in debt by $245 billion and has a deficit of over $16 billion. By not working towards fixing this problem by rebalancing the books and paying off Ontario’s debt, younger Ontarians like you and me will be left with the bill. Implementing this education plan, which will cost $486 million each year, will not help our situation.

Even if we only evaluate this Liberal plan for its impact on post-secondary education, it still has serious flaws. When a government implements a new policy, especially one that affects the pricing system, it very rarely fully understands what it is doing. As such, a number of negative side effects could develop. The first problem is if the supply is greater than the demand, the value of what is being supplied would decline. This includes undergraduate degrees.

Undergraduate degrees are certainly not as highly valued as they used to be due to government interference. If the government lowers the cost of tuition, another bad after-effect will take place: attracting people who have no serious interest in learning to campuses across Ontario, which will deteriorate the learning atmosphere.

Both of these bad effects are occurring right now because of government subsidization and will only be worsened by this Liberal policy. Another thing that could develop is that student tuition could rise at a faster rate to compensate for the government subsidy, making the policy useless.

There is a better option and that would be to let the market work. As more young Canadians demand undergraduate degrees, signals will be sent through the price system and will be met by an increase in openings as the university feels it can profit. Investors work to invest in new campuses to meet the increase in demand to maximize profit to satisfy their own self-interest. Students are free to choose universities based off of any criteria they choose and each university will attempt to meet the demands of those students so it can make a profit. The competition between universities could drive prices down and increase the quality of services. This policy was poorly conceived because of its cost and negative effects on our post-secondary education.

As such, the government of Ontario should not implement this policy. “Premier Dad” should cease harvesting burdensome amounts of money from people in Ontario through collective force and instead try a bit of individual freedom. He may be surprised at how well Ontarians can serve one another in a free society.

-Ian Merkley