I’d like to take a break for a moment from topics campaign, leadership and other to comment briefly on a pet area of mine: post secondary education.
I came across this article from today’s Globe on a recent Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation study of financial assistance programs that makes some interesting observations:
Financial aid from all levels of government hit a record $7.1-billion in 2007, but only 61 cents of every dollar of that total was targeted to students based on need, compared with 80 cents 10 years ago, says a study to be released today by the Canadian Millennium ScholarshipFoundation.
The increasing use of universal programs such as tax credits and postgraduation rebates by governments is driving the change, the study finds, causing a growing share of aid to go to those who can already afford higher education.
"We have no evidence that these programs are going to lead to the kinds of results we often talk about when we look at student support - better access, more affordability and persistence [staying in school]. "We have no evidence that a tax credit can do that," said Joseph Berger,
one of the authors of the report.
The article does note that students received a record $4.1 billion in needs-based aid in 06-07. But the increased proportion going to those that don’t need it is troubling in two ways. First, helping low income students should be the focus. Two, by giving more assistance to those that can already afford tuition, you’re making it easier for universities to raise tuition even further, which only makes it harder for low income students.
I think its great overall student aid funding has been increasing. Frankly, though, I’d be fine with a lower overall figure if more of it went to those that really need it. It’s tempting for governments to just go the tax-credit route and make it universal – they get more credit with more voters. But it does nothing to promote access, which should be the goal of any student aid initiative.
I was actually pretty impressed with the Liberal education platform this election, particularly the emphasis on needs-based scholarships and de-emphasizing the parental income test in the student loan program. It was much improved over the 2006 Liberal education plank, which I found lacking.
Just in case any of the parties in this parliament decide to try to work together on policy in the next little while, I’d like to encourage them to take a look at re-jigging student aid. You can work within the existing fiscal framework, just move the priorities around a little.
Incidentally, my own student loan just moved down from five to four digits, which both pleases and depresses me at the same time. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers