Canada: Student Debt and Myopic Public Policy
Gary Mason began his column in Thursday’s Globe and Mail by reminiscing about the good old days:
Once upon a time, getting money to attend university in Canada was easy. There were non-repayable grants available from the government, and there were lots of good paying summer jobs.
But times have changed. The governments which nurtured the baby boomers now insists that the next generations are going to have to pay their own way, even as the cost of getting a university education skyrockets:
I’d hate to be a student these days. Both the grants and the great summer employment opportunities of yesteryear are a lot harder to get. More parents than ever are being forced to dig into their wallets to help their kids finance an undergraduate degree.
There are plenty of people who bemoan the cost of going to university. But no one mentions the profits that are made from student debt — and there is a lot of student debt:
The Canadian Federation of Students says the average debt for university graduates is almost $27,000. Canada’s student loan program is close to hitting its $15-billion threshold years in advance. Why? In part, it’s because the cost of getting an advanced education has gone up precipitously. Today, nearly two million Canadians have student loans totalling $20-billion.
Once upon a time, governments saw education as an investment. Now — like so many other things — it is a business opportunity for those who have money to invest. The next generation used to be the foundation of a country’s future — and the source of its pension income.
By undermining the affordability of a university education, we have not only put our children’s futures in jeopardy. We have also undermined everyone else’s future. If there is one characteristic which defines the last forty years, it is our incredibly myopic public policy.
Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This post is cross posted from his blog.