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Nothing’s free

February 2016

Re: “Poor idea to scrap tuition fees,” (Matthew Lau, Toronto Sun, Feb 12), I would like to add one thing: there is no such thing as a free education; free anything for at matter (think of our “free” health-care).  Any “free” post-secondary education would in fact be paid for by taxpayers like you and me in the form of higher taxes. Are those who feel entitled to a “free” education today prepared to pay those higher taxes too after they graduate into the workforce? Will they feel the same way 5, 10, 20 years down the road as the next generation of post-secondary students demand their “free” education too?


Here is the original article by Matthew Lau:

It’s federal budget season, which means the special interest groups are once again making a mad dash to the public trough, hoping to eat up the biggest helping of taxpayer dollars they possibly can.

This year, university students are elbowing their way to the trough not only with a massive appetite, but also a Tupperware container in case there are any leftovers.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Federation of Students organized National Lobby Week. What the federation is demanding is an end to undergraduate tuition fees in Canada – apparently the increase of more than $750 million in annual post-secondary education funding the Liberals promised during the campaign is not enough.

Eliminating tuition fees might sound good to a lot of students and their families. However, it is a reckless idea, not only because it will cost taxpayers a fortune, but because of the unintended consequences.

Students decide to attend university if they believe the higher wages they will earn in the future will offset the initial investment. For students with strong learning abilities and in useful university programs, like engineering or accounting, this investment in education is worth it because future payoffs are likely to be high.

By setting the initial investment to zero, the government would be encouraging more young Canadians to enroll in university. But, where would this additional enrollment come from?

Likely from youth who shouldn’t be in university because the investment isn’t worth it to them – until, of course, the taxpayers are put on the hook for the entire cost. In other words, the additional enrollment will mostly be from unmotivated students and in less useful programs, equity studies for example.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “a low-tuition, high-subsidy strategy causes an increase in the ratio of less able and less highly-motivated students among college graduates.” Even worse, “all students, even the more highly-motivated ones, respond to lower tuition levels by choosing to study less.”

Canada already uses a low-tuition strategy. About half of universities’ revenues already come from taxpayers and tuition fees account for only about one-quarter.

The result is that, even today, university enrollment is far too high. In fact, for every year since 1998, Canadian youth (ages 15 to 24) were more likely to be employed if they had a postsecondary diploma or certificate, such as a trade certificate, than if they had a university degree.

There are far too many university graduates and too few job openings that require this level of education – a mismatch in the labour market that would be made worse by further cheapening university education.

In addition to free university education, the federation of students is also demanding the government double the budget of the Youth Employment Strategy, which would cost taxpayers another $330 million per year.

Students also regularly campaign for a $15 minimum wage and higher wages for university workers, which seems to contradict their campaigns to fight youth unemployment and the existence of tuition fees.

Apparently, the taxpayers would be happy to pay for all of this – and without the use of fossil fuels, please. (According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the fossil fuel industry’s “greed for profit threatens the entire planet.”)

While student activists are praying for these economic miracles, I have one of my own to ask: that university students start reading more Friedrich Hayek and less Karl Marx.

– Matthew Lau is a finance and economics student at the University of Toronto.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/nothings-free/

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