Long term problems need long term solutions

Unlike our counterparts at Saint Thomas University in Fredericton, the return to school does not mean a $100 plus tuition increase. The tuition increase overstepped the provincial tuition increase cap and officials at STU say it is the only way to avoid the university incurring a crushing financial deficit. This tuition increase seems to be part of the growing trend of post-secondary educational institutions, whether public of private, toward higher tuition for students.

I once remember my father telling me about his roughly 400 dollar tuition at Saint Mary’s University in the late 1970s. Adjusted for inflation he still paid less than half the money for a Bachelor of Arts degree than that same degree will cost me. The problem surrounding costs associated with a university education comes from how the provincial government looks at and addresses problems.

A university education is a long term investment.  However, we can see that the government of New Brunswick is not making choices that reflect the long term impact of having a well educated population.

Funding for post-secondary education from the provincial government has been progressively pulled back over the past decades and as a result, this 100 dollar plus tuition increase at STU is not the first one we’ve seen and it certainly won’t be the last. As time went on, tuition began to steadily rise while the provincial government began to save money in the short term. The problem, like any short term solution to long term problems, is that New Brunswick is simply putting the problem of tuition increases on the back burner. Ignoring the tuition problem may continue until it is ignored so long that the back burner burns the rest of the kitchen with it. The province saves money in the short term but in the long term it’s going to need an army of intelligent, well-educated university graduates to address a plethora of up and coming problems.

New Brunswick has an aging population. We have more people collecting retirement benefits than the province can ever hope to support in the future if current conditions persist. And we’re also the only province that shrunk in population according to recent figures.

When education in the province is expensive, it increases the likelihood that a resident of New Brunswick will seek their education outside of the province. And once that happens, it is quite easy to stay outside of New Brunswick once you’ve been educated in Ontario or Alberta. So we have a situation in this province where the cost of education is seriously affecting the chances that New Brunswick could ever become a have province. Education may not be significantly cheaper in other provinces but a discount at home would encourage New Brunswick’s prodigal students to come home rather than out west for opportunities.

The government of New Brunswick should never have allowed STU to get into this position. Yes, it’s going to hurt financially in the long term but the province is going to need as many university graduates it can get its hands on. Having more people retiring than entering the work force and a shrinking population are both long term problems that short term solutions are not going to fix. We need a progressive increase, rather than a decrease, in government funding for post-secondary education.

Some of this is our fault as well. The electorate often demands more funding for short term projects that provide immediate gratification at the expense of things like education funding which takes years to see results. I hope that soon the powers that be will increase education funding so that institutions like STU are affordable, not back breaking expensive, to attend.

 We have long term problems in New Brunswick and the people that will have the long term solutions will be university graduates. It must be affordable for students to be educated in this province or New Brunswick may never dig itself out of the hole it has dug.

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