Jan 25, 2012

Breaking down financial barriers to higher education is more affordable than you think


In a new report released today by the CCPA, I revisit the important question of who really pays for university education.

Convention wisdom has it that the public heavily subsidizes post-secondary education. The illusion of a subsidy comes from the fact that tuition fees, high as they are, don’t cover the entire cost of education. But this common misconception ignores a second way in which students pay for their education: through higher taxes after graduation. When these tax payments are added up over the course of graduates’ careers, it turns out that university students fully repay the cost of their degrees and then some.

The report’s main findings are captured in this infographic:

Amazing infographic from the new report

There’s a broad based agreement in this country that higher education is important for our long-term social and economic prosperity, and that it’s something that, as a society, we should promote and invest in. My report finds that we all come up ahead when more people have access to education. Then why is it that what we’ve seen the BC government increasingly withdrawing its financial support for advanced education and downloading the costs to students?

Thirty years ago, government funding covered 88% of BC university operating revenues, but in 2009, government only paid for 58% of the costs of educating students. Universities made up the shortfall by hiking tuition fees, which now account for 44% of all university operating revenues according to CAUT (see fig 1.2 and 1.3). Tuition fees in BC now run over $4,800 per year, and, along with the erosion in student grant programs, present a significant barrier to education.

There’s no better time than now to start reversing these trends. Expanding our society’s investment in higher education today will pay dividends in higher tax revenues, lower unemployment and better social mobility for decades to come.

You can also read my op-ed on this topic in the Vancouver Sun. Or check out the full report, which contains some really interesting — and little known — tidbits about just how big the gap between men’s and women’s earnings is when annual incomes are considered.

Topics: , , ,