Austerity, deficit reduction, reining in of spending, all echo through the media and political spheres. Hold on a second before you turn the page; this has to do with you. Want a more affordable education? That’s what I thought, so listen up. Students want a high-quality education that they can put toward gaining the career they want without being crushed by the burden of student debt. Every year campaigns are initiated by student unions and organizations calling for a decrease in tuition costs. This is a noble idea, but is it anything more than that?
Regardless of the strong pushes made to lower tuition, the cost of attending university continues to peak year after year. Despite the catchy slogans and the loud chants, things are not changing. The notion of students campaigning for lower tuition rates functions in a bubble. If students want to get noticed and listened to by the government, they must vote. The youth demographic consistently has the lowest voter turnout compared to other age groups. Politicians look at who votes for them and cater to their needs. Wonder why seniors and retirees are often at the forefront of debate and policy decisions? They vote.
Some years, the government is in a better position to offer increases in funding. Currently, the government of Ontario has more debt per capita than the government of Canada. The good thing is that the government is taking measures to control spending and get back to a balanced budget. In situations of poor provincial economic health, the government is unlikely to increase funding. On the other hand, in situations of good provincial economic health, the government is more likely to increase funding (and often does), because there is room to spend more without tipping the budget or taking a toll on the economy.
When the government is in a better position to offer more, students should lobby for more. When the government is in a situation where spending is restricted, students should lobby less. Establishing a mutual understanding between government and student groups is essential in formulating a strong relationship if we want to see incremental decreases in tuition. Student unions and organizations should never completely stop lobbying, because the student voice is essential to have at the table. But we need to adjust our efforts according to how much the government can really offer and be realistic when we campaign for lower tuition. By taking this approach, we can transform the idea of “drop fees” into action and results.
Fourth-year, political science