Federal and provincial governments used to play a greater role in funding education as a public good. The share of public funding for postsecondary has declined from 80% to as little as 50% since the 1990s – when the federal Liberal government slashed spending for post secondary education.
With governments backing away from their social responsibilities, the financial burden for education has increasingly been placed on the backs of students. Tuition fees have tripled since 2001, reaching a national average of $6,363.00 per year. The average student debt in Canada is $28,000, not accounting for private sources of debt like lines of credit and credit cards. In total, students owe a staggering $28,000,000,000.00 to all levels of government.
Making things worse, students today face a job market that increasingly requires its employees to have a university or college degree, with upwards of 70% job postings demanding some level of postsecondary education. At the same time, neoliberal policies have created a precarious job market in which even recent graduates are stuck with jobs that are low-paid, part-time, and have no benefits or job security.
It is time to bring fundamental change to our unequal postsecondary education system, and to reverse the transfer of wealth and power that has continued under Liberal and Conservative governments. We need to see education as a public good, similar to health care. Access to postsecondary education should not be determined according to income; it should be accessible and paid for through a progressive income tax system.