Today on my way to class, I ran into a student group lobbying the government for lower tuition fees/free post-secondary education.
“TUITION FEES ARE INCREASING BY 5% EACH YEAR,” one of them screamed in my ear. I turned around, quizzically, and looked at him. “Do you have a minute? Would you like to send a message to the government to step in and regulate tuition prices?”
“Why does the government need to regulate prices?” I asked, quizzically.
“Because,” he said in a loud voice, “Ontario’s tuition fees are causing students to go deeper and deeper into debt!” In a desperate attempt to win me over, he asked: “How much is your student debt?”
“Zero dollars,” I replied.
“What about the rest of us whose parents are poor and can’t afford to pay?” he asked, quizzically.
Well, O Ignorant Ones, allow me to enlighten you: “My parents do not pay a dime for anything of mine,” I answered him, politely.
“How’d you do it?!” he asked, quizzically.
“It’s a miracle,” said I, a sly smile creeping in the corners of my mouth, “It’s called a job. I got one. Worked part-time through high-school, full time in the summers. I kept my grades up and got an entrance scholarship. And I even work part-time now.”
“That’s interesting,” he continued, “because a study just came out saying thatstudents who work part-time get lower grades and don’t do as well in school.”
“That IS interesting,” said I, “and what is the government (read: bureaucratic morons) to do about this?” No, really, I was actually curious about this.
“Well what we do is we talk to politicians and members of parliament and basically try to lobby them to get them to reduce tuition fees or offer free post-secondary education,” he said, all in one breath.
“Ah, I understand,” probably much better than he does, “but you said education costs a lot of money,” wait for it, wait for it, “who would pay for it, if not the people who are directly benefiting from it?” Aren’t I a doll?
“Well, we all benefit from education,” he started making his case, “even the millionaires benefit from students going to school because it leads to a higher standard of living.”
“So the millionaires will pay?”
“YES!” He screamed. He actually screamed at this. I swear on my life, I kid you not.
“So you would take money from someone without their consent, and use it to finance somebody else’s inability to properly manage their time to fit in school and a part-time job?”
“Well, how would you propose people pay for school, then?”
“I just did: a job, were you not listening?” That’s not very respectful of him.
“But the current recession doesn’t allow for many students to get jobs,” he said.
“McDonald’s is hiring,” I replied.
At this, he laughed a little, “Oh come on, people can do better than McDonald’s!”
“Then, do it!” I said. “If, even then, you still can’t afford it, take a year off. Take two years off, take however many years off you want until you can come up with the money to pay for school.”
“Ok, but what about a guy who can’t afford to pay for school because he has three kids and has to work to feed his family?” He asked, quizzically.
“Then perhaps he shouldn’t go to school and should instead focus on feeding his kids.”
“You can’t ask that of him!” he screamed. “That’s just not fair!”
“Ok,” said I, “then he should’ve focused on school instead of having three kids.” But no, my logic is obviously (read: ugh) flawed, and his is so much (read:ugh) better than mine.
“That is not a choice!” He started screaming. “There’s all these rich people, and they don’t want to pay their taxes! All these big oil corporations who are getting all the tax cuts because apparently, if they don’t get the cuts, they’ll leave!” He was still screaming and flailing his arms around, as if doing so would give more validity to his argument. It didn’t.
“The oil companies, they make so much money! And they don’t want to pay taxes! What is that?! Why not? They’re not going to leave if they have to pay taxes, they’re not idiots! Somebody else would come right along and do the job!”
“You think so?” I asked?
“YES! Look at Denmark! And Germany! They don’t pay for education!” And Denmark is the happiest place on earth!”
Of course, he forgets that Denmark’s public debt per capita is about $110, 000 US, and it accounts for 196% of their GDP. Perhaps, he didn’t know?
In any case, it was certainly an interesting conversation.