I hope you like these "editorials" Iím going to share with you throughout the year. At the very least, I hope I bring a smile to your face as you trudge through your day of classes, or get you to think about an important topic. Todayís topic: Tuition.
A lot of science fiction types love to talk about "parallel universes". I donít know how many of us actually believe in them, but they sure do make for good story lines, and itís a really cool way to give Spock a goatee.
Somewhere out there is a parallel universe where the government pays for all the students to attend university. In fact, they not only pay for your tuition, but they pay for all your expenses: textbooks, food, lodging, clothes, entertainment, and so on. Letís call this place Never-Never Land.
Somewhere out there is a world entirely made up of chocolate. MmmmÖ the Land of Chocolate.
Somewhere out there are the Loan Worlds: very similar to Never-Never Land except the government expects you to pay them back. But consider all the parallel universes, as there are billions of different ways to implement a loan system. Some Loan Worlds restrict the total amount of your loan, or only allow certain expense items. Some Loan Words have entirely different interest schemes. There are even some Loan Worlds that sterilize you if you miss a loan payment, but we wonít talk about the evil Loan Worlds.
So let me pick out a Loan World I would consider to be a ĎFairí World. On Fair World they donít base your loan on your parentsí income: they only consider you (and possibly your spouse and/or dependents). In Fair World, you have a comfortable lifestyle. You donít live in paradise, but you donít live in a cardboard box. Your expenses are covered by the loan, but they donít get extravagant. In Fair World they have a magic formula that automatically determines the perfect amount of loan for you. In fact, if the three bears were to get a loan in Fair World, then every one of them would get a loan suited to them: Not too big, not too small, but just right.
How do you pay back your loan in my Fair World? Its a very sophisticated system. First of all, the government supports student loans, and it spends money maintaining the fairness. The Fair World government doesnít use their student loan system as a way to cut costs or as a Ďbreak-evení operation. Next, in Fair World they donít start charging you interest until after youíve left university and started working. The amount of interest and principal that you pay is directly proportional to the amount of income you are earning. If you land a great job after university, then they expect you to pay off your loan much quicker than your classmate working at McDonaldís (I donít want to make fun of McDonaldís, but it seems to be the classic "couldnít get a job somewhere else" reference).
But if your income is relatively poor, then they wonít accrue interest. When times are good, you pay back your loan, and if times are rough, then you are given some forgiveness. And finally, after 10 years or so, if you havenít paid back your loan, they just forget about the whole thing and let you get on with your life.
So you thought I was going to talk about tuition, didnít you? Well, so did I, but I had to describe Fair World, because loans are so important in the tuition equation. What the loan program does is help establish accessibility: so no one is afraid to attend university on the basis of accruing a large debt.
So now that we have this fair world, how much should tuition be? Should we all pay the same tuition, or should some of us pay more? There are numerous factors that could determine tuition rates, but the two key ones are the average incomes of graduates, and the cost of the program.
The cost of the program is a little harder to argue against, because it costs a lot more to graduate a dentistry student than a philosophy student. So why shouldnít the dentistry student pay more? And what about the average income of the graduates? Dentistry graduates make a lot more money then philosophy graduates, so why shouldnít they pay more on that basis?
Remember, weíre talking about Fair World. And in Fair World they know that dentists make more money, and are better equipped to pay back their loan. And in the case that a dentistry graduate doesnít find work, or changes careers, the loan forgiveness programs are in place to protect that ex-dentist.
Although Iíve really oversimplified the situation, you can see how Fair World would work.
But we donít live in Fair World. We live here, and we donít have a fancy loan system, we just have a "occasionally fair" system with not enough money and goofy rules. So how can we possibly consider the tuition question? Who is to say whatís fair in a world that isnít fair?
So maybe someday weíll live in fair world. But if I get to choose my world, Iíd consider living in the parallel world where drinking beer eating nachos, wings and poutine is a weight loss program.
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