Friday, September 03, 2004


As the new school year approaches, we are predictably inundated by articles about increasing tuition fees. Organizations like the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), who advocate for free tuition, and other "student rights" groups who feel tution fees are too high in Canada.

I have an outstanding student loan from my days as a student. Actually, its quite a large one. My parents didn't pay for any of my education fees, so I had to front the cost of tuition myself. My first year, was the worst as far as the amount of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funds I received. Worst because that year's OSAP loan represented over half of the total amount I am now paying back. And I diligently make my payments every month.

Truth be told, I didn't need as much as I received. It covered more than tuition and campus housing, so I didn't feel the need to get a part time job (thanks to birthday money and my very modest savings account, GST rebate cheque).

And now I'm paying for it.

Thankfully, I woke up in subsequent years and realized I was just making things tougher for myself by taking more and more OSAP money. In fact, in my third year, I took some of the money left over after tuition and returned it. In my fourth year, I didn't apply for OSAP.

You know why? It wasn't because I starved, or borrowed my books. I got a job! I worked part time during the school year and full time during the break. And I chose my school largely based on the fact that it was in the same City as my parents, which allowed me to eliminate housing expenses. Was it ideal? No. Did it allow me to avoid "crippling student debt"? Yes.

If the CFS really wants to help students, they could assist them in truly preparing for real life--which means learning to be accountable. No one is going to pay your way once you get out of school, so we should break that habit early.

Bottom line--I'm all for keeping tuition affordable, but people (especially students) need to learn that anything worth having has a cost.

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