George Duma is, by nature, a
passionate person. Sometimes his passion gets the better of him.
Last Friday, George wrote about
student debt. He started by stating that a university or college
education was necessary if you want to get ahead in life, and he
concluded that unless you were the offspring of independently wealthy
parents, your only option was to go into debt.
George goes on to give vague
references to unnamed countries around the world that apparently do more
than Canada to help post secondary students. He claims the education
debt is crippling to students who were not "born into money",
he laments that post secondary education should not be there only for
the wealthy and he concludes the current system is just plain wrong.
See what I mean? Passionate!
Lets talk about some of those unnamed
countries. There are places in this world where everyone is treated to a
cost free post secondary education. At a government university - where
you are taught an approved curriculum - where it is a major crime to
teach opposition to the party or religious doctrine - where guilty
teachers disappear. But hey, there is no student debt!
Lets talk about the contribution of
our tax dollars to education. About two hundred students started grade
nine at Pelham District High School in 1952. I was one of them. Five
years later, we were lucky to count twenty remaining who had any hope to
enter university. I was not one of the twenty. Some of us, unable to
afford university, either became teachers, (a one or two year
certificate training, in some cases a six week summer course) nurses, (a
three year indentured labour position), or accountants, (another
indentured labour position). The rest got jobs in factories, banks, and
stores. Most had successful lives, they raised their kids and they paid
Those taxes provided funding for the
education of future students. There is now a community college system
that did not exist in my student days. We have Brock University and
Niagara College; each allows many local students to commute from home
while receiving their education. These investments turned the statistics
from my youth completely around.
We have been pushed to accept the
theory that everyone is entitled to a college or university degree. It
does not take a university degree to see that this premise is complete
rubbish. Acceptance of this premise just forces the quality of such a
degree down to the point where it has no value. The post secondary
institutions will have to design courses that no one can fail and
society will become swamped with college and university graduates who
still have trouble tying their shoes.
We need skilled trades. We need good
sales persons. Under the current system, we look down our collective
noses at such people. We require classroom space and trained professors
for needed doctors, scientists and other professions. We spend too much
money providing classroom space to deliver useless "bird
degrees" to everyone who demands a university education. One can
get along in life quite well without such education.
Letís talk about who should pay the
I have two children and three
stepchildren. The father of my stepchildren and I have both been
successful in our working lives and therefore none of the five children
were eligible for government grants or loans to finance the costs of
their education. Although we two fathers were both successful, neither
of us could be classified as wealthy. Both of us were however, very
careful with a dollar. All five children were subjected to tight
restraints on the availability of cash during their time at university.
Our children told us that other
students, who were being financed with government grants and loans, did
not experience these restraints. They said "OSAP kids" had
lots of spare change to carry on an active and expensive party life. We
took this as hearsay, but the observation has since been supported from
many sources. When no one watches the cash, spending does tend to get
out of hand. An individualís student debt load is impacted by the
lifestyle enjoyed in the college years. This is OK so long as the
student accepts the responsibility for repayment. Just do not tax me to
get those former students off the hook.
Letís talk about debt management.
There is a simple truth about
borrowing money. Borrow and you have to pay it back. You also have to
pay interest. You do not need a university education to figure that out.
Money is usually borrowed to make an
investment. A post secondary school education is such an investment. It
therefore makes sense to think hard about the investment to ensure that
it is going to improve your earning ability to the extent necessary to
pay back the borrowed funds.
Our tax dollars are continually and
generously being spent to ease the financial reality of the cost of
education. Government sponsored plans are in place to match savings with
grants for those people who are prepared to take responsibility for
their childrenís educational opportunities. I am talking about
students who were born into responsible families of normal working
taxpayers. Those families plan ahead and save prior to the day of high
If you want to fix the system, start
giving debt control skills to children in primary school. When we hear
of university graduates being shocked over student debt levels, we
question how much real life skills they received for their money.
As you said, George, "the
current system is just plain wrong".
Perhaps you have not yet considered