Responding to the recent report on Canadian university funding from the Educational Policy Institute, CBC commentator Heather Mallick suggests that tuition fees should be abolished. She argues that university education is overpriced and that the return on this investment is something that is inherently uncertain for students. No argument from me there, however, she and I diverge on the question of returning to the elite university system of the past. For her part, Mallick contends that our universities are “overcrowded” and need “to be thinned out”:
Here’s my plan for reshuffling the whole deck of cards that makes up the education mess: abolish tuition so that universities are free.
What would happen? Universities, not tempted to profit by taking as many paying customers as possible, would accept only those students with a realistic chance of success.
Grade inflation would become pointless and dumbing down would end.
A university degree would be a gleaming thing, as opposed to a basic that now has to be topped off with some kind of postgraduate degree to catch anyone’s attention.
Class sizes would shrink. Without the tuition cash, all six-figure professors would have to teach classes rather than edit obscure journals read by 12 people who meet yearly in Belgium to discuss which of the Wittgenstein siblings actually slept together.
This would narrow the university degree once again instead of the peony-like expansion that is flinging students into huge debt.