Hasbro’s Game of Life definitely lied to us, if it were realistic, at the beginning of the game you could either choose to go to college and earn massive debt, then have a just-ok job, or skip college and choose between eating and getting your bad tooth fixed for the remainder of the game. Boo.
I love University and college experience. I love learning in a classroom setting. I love being assigned books to read at home, and I love working with people who have similar goals and ideals as I do. I have an undergraduate degree in English and Cultural studies, and I’m currently setting up to get my graduate degree because I have a passion for learning and writing.
Unlike many Canadians, I am very fortunate and privileged in the sense that firstly, I enjoy post-secondary studies. Secondly, I have financial merit to pursue my goals in a university setting. However, these past few days as I’ve been preparing for my return to the University and money is looming over my head. I’m already $28,000 in debt from the first four years, what kind of financial struggle am I getting myself into?
In the past few decades, post-secondary education has become the standard for Canadians, and it continues to rise. According to Statistics Canada, “In 2016, more than half (54.0%) of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had either college or university qualifications, up from 48.3% in 2006.” If over 50% of the population has a certain level of education, this becomes the social norm and becomes expected by employers.
When a certain level of education becomes expected, it becomes more and more difficult to gain employment without it. “Generally, the employment rate increases with education level” states the financial post […] “About 82% of university graduates were employed in Canada in 2011, compared to about 56% for those who had no certificate, diploma or degree,”.
Jobs that typically do not require any post-secondary education such as a career in the service industry—through valid and at times, painstaking labour—are often egregiously underpaid. Thousands of Canadians who work minimum wage jobs live below the poverty line and are not making a sustainable living wage.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this; if it has become necessary for a person to have a post-secondary degree or diploma to secure a career and provide for themselves and their families, post-secondary education is necessary to a healthy life, and no longer a luxury to boost yourself to a higher-paying job.
You might read this bummer of an article and say “Okay, noted, college is important; if you don’t want to be living under the poverty line you have to go to college. Therefore the answer is just go to college!” I wish it were this simple, but post-secondary education has been designed as a luxury that few people can accomplish or obtain.
Post-secondary education is sold to us as a necessity but marketed as a luxury. As more and more people sign up for college, the more colleges are charging for tuition. According to CNBC, since the late seventies, tuition rates have increased “by roughly 25.3% at private colleges and about 29.8% at public colleges.” In the seventies, eighties, and even nineties, it may have been possible to go through University without loans. Still, currently for many of us (myself included) who work minimum wage jobs under the poverty line, post-secondary is a huge investment that takes years to pay off. I am privileged enough to be given help by my family, but I am not the standard.
By charging exorbitant and ever-growing prices for tuition, post-secondary education has become a luxury that excludes those living under the poverty line, and those living under the poverty line in Canada are statistically disabled people, single mothers, indigenous peoples, and people of colour (as discussed in my article about houselessness in Canada). This current system regarding post-secondary is designed to exclude people of colour, the disabled, and women, thus creating a culture of college-going-people being young, rich, and white.
Post-secondary education has quickly become necessary for a healthy and happy life, meaning it is becoming a fundamental human right. A person’s right to education should not be a radical idea; we made elementary and high school universal as they’ve been deemed necessary parts of life. When do we do the same for post-secondary?
Several developed nations offer free/universal post-secondary education, including Finland, Iceland, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic, and in these countries, we’ve seen overwhelmingly positive results. Without massive fees, we see an equal opportunity in education, freedom for younger generations who don’t experience crushing debt, rises in attendance, and more exploration in majors. Post-secondary without outrageous tuition works because education is necessary and enriching.
Pretentiousness and exclusivity have always been an issue in post-secondary learning; large tuition fees that alienate people living below the poverty line is already an unacceptable issue. Still, now more than ever as tuition rates continue to sky-rocket, and we see more and more greed and exclusivity in our institutions of learning, we need to see a massive shift of priorities. We need to prioritize education and opportunity over money. If education is a necessity, we should not be paying luxury prices for it.