Students are the real investors of higher education

Photo by Darien Funk

One of the major troubles amongst students is paying for post-secondary education and subsequently repaying their debt accumulated by student loans. 

While some may argue that you shouldn’t attend post-secondary if you cannot afford it, there is an increasing standard in the workforce that states that an individual needs a post-secondary degree or diploma to find employment with a livable wage. Therefore, young adults feel pressure to pay the increasing post-secondary education costs as an investment in their future.

Regardless of one’s views on post-secondary education, over 50 per  cent of undergraduate Bachelor’s students finish their degree with an average of $20,000 in student loans. While tuition costs vary based on faculty, there is no denying that entering the workforce with debt is difficult for any student.

I’m not arguing that tuition costs should be lowered or post-secondary education should be free, but we should be aware that every student is essential to the vitality of a university and our fellow peers.

Ontario has 21 publicly-assisted universities and 24 publicly-assisted colleges, meaning that the Ontario government’s annual $5.2 billion investment is distributed across these schools. 

This budget is not distributed equally across all schools and funding is largely determined by enrollment. This operation-based funding makes sense as the 61,000 students at the University of Toronto will have more demand for resources as opposed to the 10,000 students at Niagara College.

However, by 2024, the Ontario government has promised that 60 per cent of this operation-based funding will be based on performance. Performance-based funding is a funding system whereby government funds are allocated to institutions based on course completion, retention, and degree completion. 

Adopting performance-based funding means that post-secondary institutions have to be more concerned about the quality of students enrolling and helping their students be successful in their courses to qualify for specific funding. 

In this regard, post-secondary institutions are investing their resources into high-achieving students. In return, however, students are investing their money and quality of course work to help their post-secondary institution achieve their desired funding. 

Reaching the desired government funding means that a school will be able to invest in more resources for their students with the goal of increasing enrollment and student performance.

Having said this, the majority of university funding does not come from the government but the students themselves. Government funding can help subsidize university costs, but over the past few decades, the onus of post-secondary costs has been placed onto students. 

If there is so much pressure placed on the student to produce quality work and fund the university, why don’t students have more say in how the university operates?

While we have relentless student advocates on the Students’ Union board, this does not mean Respondus Lockdown Browser, insufficient health insurance, and contestable building fees are going anywhere anytime soon. 

If the university is dependent on the output of student engagement, then they should also invest in student satisfaction. After all, any university would love to brag about being number one in student satisfaction.

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