How to get your point across, yelling or research?

Disclaimer: Alex currently works for CASA in Ottawa. (Happy Justin? No need to get your panties in a bunch.)

The big news in Canadian post-secondary education today revolves around the cap for student loans being raised above $15 Billion. I’m very curious to know how they managed to not account for upwards of $3B, the obvious question which wasn’t covered in the article. Additionally, as I was reading through the article, a few things caught my eye.

The first thing was the mention of an Actuarial Report about the student loan program.

Something I’ve heard repeatedly over the past few years is that the government makes money off the student loan program. The government using the student loan program to profit from low-income students? That sounds downright nefarious! Small problem: it’s not true. According to the actuarial report, “the initial net annual cost for the Direct Loan Regime is $712 million for loan year 2008-09 [and] increases to 1,197 million in 2009-10.” Can we please put to rest the myth that the government is somehow profiting from student loans?

The second thing was how clearly it illustrated the difference between the approaches taken by the CFS and CASA. Take a look at these quotes.

“People are graduating more than ever before with mortgage-sized debts,” said David Molenhuis, chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students, a national advocacy group. “The kinds of jobs that are out there aren’t the kind of dream jobs that allow you to make large payments on your loans.”

Vague, anecdotal, likely highly exaggerated rhetoric about the size of loans. Then, pointing out that a university degree does not guarantee one a high-paying “dream job”. (Duh.) It’s basically just yelling a bunch of unconstructive criticism. What does this really accomplish?

The Canadian Alliance for [sic] Student Associations estimates that, adjusted for inflation, Ottawa transferred $3-billion less to the provinces for postsecondary education in 2007 than it did in 1995.

CASA actually did some research: over the last decade and a bit, federal post-secondary funding decreased in real dollars. While it seems boring on the surface, this is how you could actually start a meaningful discussion with policy-makers, rather than just yelling at them.


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  1. I would like to hear more detail and information and lest anti-CFS, pro CASA posturing.

    As UBC’s former economics prof Robert Allen has shown some years ago post-secondary grads contribute far more than the cost of their education back to society over their lifetime of work.

    Isn’t time that we did the same for post-secondary that we have done for the K-12 system and make it a fully available to all at no direct immediate cost. Grads will more than pay back the cost over their lifetime of work.

    It seems unreasonable to hobble students with any size of debt related to education.

    Posted by Charles Menzies | September 6, 2010, 7:10 am
  2. Yelling and research, though the most common techniques, are not the only ones. Alternatives exist, and I think we will benefit from exploring them.

    Posted by Spencer Rasmussen | September 28, 2010, 2:09 pm
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