Liberal PSE promise a little misguided

If Ignatieff wants to help students, targeted funds are better than washing everyone with money


Releasing part of his education platform this week — attractively titled the Learning Passport — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff promised up to $1,500 for every post-secondary student in Canada to help offset the rising costs of a university education. The money would be a grant, issued to every student, to help pay for university.

Quite frankly, the idea is not thought out very well.

$1 billion is a lot of money, especially for students who, by and large, are broke. But not all students are broke and not all students are in need. Canada Student Loans, through its needs-based scholarships and bursaries programs, collects a lot of data outlining which students are in need of funds and which are doing just fine on their own.

In their own words:

“In 2006-2007, the CSLP provided over $1.9 billion in full- and part-time student loans to approximately 345,000 students and awarded $141.8 million in non-repayable Canada Study Grants and Canada Access Grants (87,368 grants).”

By taking that billion dollars and applying it to needs-based grants instead of washing everyone in cash, Ignatieff could be boosting grants to students by more than seven times while maintaining needs-based loans at existing levels. Tuition fees at Canada’s post-secondary institutions have more than tripled since the early 1990s and in some provinces it has quintupled. And it’s only rising. Student debt in Canada is spiralling out of control, limiting participation in larger life events like cars and houses.

Ignatieff is right to invest in post-secondary education and right to try to improve access to those institutions. But blindly throwing money at the problem is the wrong approach. Targeted financing could do much to reduce student debt and improve access, if only Michael were smart enough to realize it.


Liberal PSE promise a little misguided

  1. Harper seems to think he can get womens’ votes but I doubt that since he has hit them hard by his cuts to the Status of women and almost all things having to do with womens’ groups, including womens’ shelters in cases of abuse and perhaps most importantly, his decision to give each child a paltry sum rather than establishing more day care centres. Since most women work either full time or part time, day care is crucial to them and that hundred dollars a month doesn’t amount to much when one child’s day care costs can amount to 500 dollars a month or more. I think that women would react quite favorably to wiping out Harper’s damaging legislation and turning it around.

  2. I received two loans from them. One for 350 dollars and one for 1149 dollars. Because I have had two I can never get another student loan again for life. So basically Canada was willing to pay the interest on 1500 dollars for a year. Which works out to about 100 dollars. So before you think of this Canada Student Loans program as a great thing, they refuse to give money to people who need it based upon things that “should have happened”. You should have been able to save such and such with full time labor etc etc so we are going to stick it to you and short change you and you can starve to death in school. Give the money to everyone. Having to give supporting documentation for a lousy 1500 bucks is a joke.

    • $6000 max over 4 years, in 4 years, will be chicken-feed. Education is free in Cuba. Let’s just do it right, and not fiddle with half-way measures. If they can do it, why can’t we? They are poor enough.

  3. A friend whose father refused to help him, despite being financially able to, was unable to get the financial help he needed. It is too costly for a government to figure out individual cases and so a simple checkmark, like family income, is used for need-based programs. Clearly, some fall through the cracks. If one things education is important enough, you don’t want people falling through the cracks.

    Do you think public schools are off the mark because not everyone needs financial help in educating their children? What about health care – do you want to change that too? People with larger incomes and companies with larger profits pay more taxes, but they still benefit from universal programs.

    Universal programs, while typically cheaper to administer, are usually reserved for things that are considered important and for the well-being of society – such as health care and education. Some would say that education should end with high school. One can argue about that. But if one thinks there is value in students who have the grades going beyond high school, then this is something to encourage.

  4. Keep in mind that the Liberal’s last attempt at a national daycare plan only offered $1 billion per year, far less than the amount required to pay the “paltry” $100/month to each child. The Liberal plan would have only created enough spots for a small percentage of the kids qualifying for the “paltry” Con payout. Put another way, under the Liberal plan some kids would have gotten a great deal and others, the vast majority, wouldn’t have benefited at all. Let’s wait until we see both the details of what the Liberals are offering AND a commitment to pay the fullup cost before we jump for joy.

  5. So what?

    Macleans and people who read it would push for more tax credits, when grants and direct funding are shown to be 10 times more effective.

  6. I agree with Mark Anthony up there. I’m a Quebec university student, 100% supporting myself through college (ie: my parents can’t afford to help), and I find the same problem with targeted funding. Everything’s based on how much money I made last year, without taking into consideration last year’s expenses and this year’s living situation. Just because I made money working last year doesn’t mean I have any leftover now when I’m living by myself.

  7. Personally, I like the education tax credit as it is. Mature students are eligible for it, something that would not happen with the new liberal plan, since their plan would replace the education tax credit.

    Besides, not everyone is cut out for university. When I was a grad student, as a TA, I saw far too many people in first year courses who really didn’t belong in university. However, these students went to university because it was the “thing to do” or because their parents pushed them into it. Many of these students would have been better served going to a community college and developing a trade or the like.

    Not every student needs to go to university, and we should stop pushing students into paths that don’t suit them. I personally like the German system, where students are streamed into technical, professional or academic schools fairly early on, in the recognition that not everyone needs to have a university degree. Bright students can move “up” a rung, and poor students can drop down a rung after they are streamed, so they aren’t locked into one particular path their entire lives. But there is certainly a recognition that not everyone needs a university degree and not everyone is cut out for it.

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