The intergenerational war against the young continues unabated and without apology.
The baby boomers, who in their youth invented the slogan “Never trust anyone over 30,” have now, in their latter years, adopted a reverse adage, “Never help anyone under 30.”
A Canadian Press story this week reported post-secondary tuition fees are rising faster than inflation and faster than incomes, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The average tuition at Canadian universities is $6,186, the CCPA says.
This figure can send your mind reeling, if you started studies in the 1960s or ’70s.
Sure, money isn’t worth as much today, so straight-up comparisons can be misleading. After all, a few hundred dollars back then would be equal to a few thousand dollars today.
Even so, what baby boomers — now largely in charge of the world — have done to today’s college and university students is astoundingly hypocritical.
Turning the tables
Having benefitted from cheap
and affordable education, baby boomers are smug and self-satisfied with their degrees and their jobs, and blithely declare to the young, “You have to pay your own way.”
According to the CCPA report, provincial governments’ contributions accounted for 84 per cent of universities’ costs in 1979, but only 58 per cent by 2009.
In contrast, during those 30 years, tuition fees went from accounting for 12 per cent of universities’ costs to 35 per cent, says the CCPA.
If there is justice in the world, and there yet may be, when today’s students take their turn at ascending to power, they will cut and gut public spending on health care, and tell the doddering baby boomers crying out for subsidized hip replacements and home care, “Pay your own way.”
Actually, the CCPA’s findings are not at all surprising. Rising tuition fees and ballooning student debt loads have been newsworthy for years.
That the baby boomers, a generation that seems to be proud of their reputation as idealists and dreamers, would allow this to happen is repulsive.
Of course, they — we — are also the group that became the “Me generation.”
Let’s set aside all the big statistics for a moment, and look at the issue from the perspective of a single student.
Let’s say you started university in 1977. Your tuition for a full year of study, 10 courses, was $400. (For all 10 courses, not each!) You manage to find a summer job that pays the minimum wage of $3.50 per hour. To cover your tuition, you must work 114 ½ hours, or 14 ½ days. In just under three weeks, you’ll have enough money for tuition, and can start saving your other paycheques for books, rent, transportation, platform shoes, etc.
Let’s say you’re a Canadian student today. Your tuition, the Canadian average, is $6,186 per year. You get a summer job that pays the minimum wage, about $10 per hour. To cover your tuition, you must work 619 hours, or 77 ½ days. Assuming you work the full four months from May to August, by the time you’ve saved enough for tuition, you’ll have about 2 ½ days left to set aside money for books, rent, transportation, cellphone fees, etc. And it’s no use wasting any time cursing the baby boomers, as tempting as that may be.
In Newfoundland and Labrador tuition fees are $2,861 per year, the lowest in Canada.
In this regard, at least, the province has the wisest and most fair policy in the country.
Even so, students in the 1960s and ’70s still had it far easier.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram, and a graduate of the
University of Calgary (BA ’81) and Memorial University (BEd ’95). He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.