As we approach the delivery of another provincial budget, it has been again questioned whether the governing Progressive Conservatives will keep their previous campaign promise and continue the on-going tuition freeze. While there has been no reason to suggest that the freeze will not be renewed, the discussion of the freeze raises some interesting questions, including most importantly, whether we even need the tuition freeze at all?
The tuition freeze, which involves the transfer of tax-payer revenue to subsidize tuition fees at Memorial, has been promoted as a way to decrease barriers and increase enrollment accessibility for the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, in the process, there are two emerging flaws that may be worth addressing rather than simply accepting the status-quo.
The most evident flaw with the current freeze is that it often benefits other Canadians, rather than just the provincial residents’ who are paying for this policy. Since implementing the freeze, we have opened our doors to many residents from other provinces on a temporary basis as they take advantage of these lower rates. However this, in its simplest form, is contradictory to the policy’s goal. This illustrates a clear abuse of tax-payers dollars, as it punishes residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to educate students who often do not have any intention on staying within the province. Therefore, the tax-payers of this province should not have to willfully accept this burden as they do now on a yearly basis.
Similarly, another substantial flaw with the current tuition freeze is the assumed correlation between student enrollment and subsidized education. Despite popular belief, empirical evidence has shown that this is often not the case. This was most heavily noted during the 1990s, as despite a rise in tuition fees across the country, we also seen a rise in post-secondary attendance. Resultantly, it was determined that one’s decision to enter a post-secondary institution is often dependent on many other variables besides the cost of tuition, and that tuition plays a little role in this decision providing there are other policies in place, such as an ease of access to student loans. Given the various other costs associated with getting an education, such as the rising living costs in St. John’s, it is hard to see whether this policy does proper justice in increasing accessibility without trying to find other means of combating these fees.
Given these two flaws, it is in the best interest of the governing PCs to consider a different approach in the future. One that would perhaps solve both issues would be removing the freeze and implementing additional grants and interest-free loans for residents who are interested in pursuing a post-secondary education. Not only would this policy be fair to the tax-payers of Newfoundland and Labrador, it would also successfully target many of the other associated costs with pursuing a post-secondary education, rather than just subsidizing the tuition fees for all Canadian students. As a result, it can be concluded that if we can implement a similar program, we do not need the tuition freeze as it currently stands.