The CUSA Presidential Candidates Speak

Today, Adam and I spoke with CUSA Presidential candidates Brittany Smyth and Andrew Monkhouse. A third Candidate, Helen Choi, was invited but could not attend. For more information on everyone, the Charlatan is best.

Voting is Wednesday and Thursday, so if you are a CUSA member, do get out and vote. I’ll post the results up here when they become available on Friday night, and perhaps will include some of my own thoughts on the matter as well.

Raise Tuition, Increase Enrollment

From the ever-useful Worthwhile Canadian Initiative:

Although the link between PSE participation and tuition fees is small, it is not zero:  tripling tuition fees would force out almost 10% of the students, particularly those from low-income families in small towns. But tripling tuition fees would also mean that universities would have an extra $246m: more than enough to pay the $108m it would cost to offer free tuition to those 22,000 students whose financial situation is too precarious to handle the tuition fee increase. And if they wanted, they could even afford the $88m cost of waiving fees for the 18,000 potential students who would have come if tuition were free. And there would still be $50m left over for other things, in addition to the $20m freed up in the provincial budget.

In principle, a policy of raising tuition fees to the provincial average and then helping those who are in financial difficulty could have the same effect on post-secondary enrollment as a policy of free tuition. But while free tuition would involve increasing public expenditures by $150m, a policy of higher tuition could actually reduce public expenditures.

Since these estimates are subject to a certain amount of error, they can’t be used to justify an immediate increase of %300 in tuition fees. But they certainly make it plain that the appropriate policy path involves increasing tuition fees and using these revenues to help students in financial need.

Remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they figure out a way to destroy the borg with a mind puzzle so complex it makes their heads explode? This is that for the CFS: raise fees and increase accessibility? That’s unpossible!
Now, I haven’t found a CFS media release on this, but given that they do support needs-based grants, and do support increasing accessibility. They do dispute that increasing fees will do anything but harm accessibility (see here, on page 2).  I’d bet that they focus on how increasing fees reduces enrollment, not that the increase in revenue could be redistributed to those in need and cover their bill. If I were more optimistic, I’d hope that CFS would see that by charging those that can afford it a little more, universities can make life a whole lot easier for those that can’t. In, the end, many people will be unable to afford $2000 as much as they can’t afford $4000.

But I’m not optimistic: CFS, as much as it claims otherwise, is an advocacy organization that represents the interests of all of its members, not just those that might be members if fees were lower. That means advocating for lower tuition for everyone, even if it is demonstrably bad policy and counter to their oft-stated goal of making university more open to everyone regardless of income.