HALIFAX (CUP) — Helen Tremethick doesn’t care what the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation’s report says, she can’t afford to go to school this year.
Last week a federal paper entitled “The Price of Knowledge” was released outlining the state of post-secondary education in Canada. Among its conclusions: the price of tuition does not stop people from attending university.
“The price of tuition stopped me from going to university,” said Tremethick, a former international development studies student at Dalhousie who is only one year away from completing her degree. “I can’t go to school because my student loans aren’t large enough to afford me to go to school and live.”
As tuition continues to escalate, student loan levels have remained basically the same. According to the report, a lot of students are feeling this pinch and resorting to personal loans through banks to help offset the cost of living. The problem with personal loans, however, is the monthly interest charges.
Sean Junor, co-author of the Millennium Scholarship report said the number of students accessing personal lines of credit has increased to 20 per cent over the last seven years. He suggests parents are helping their children pay for their education.
“Maybe parents are contributing to their children’s education through co-signing those lines of credit and maybe paying the monthly interest payments,” he said.
But this hypothesizing about what parents could contribute doesn’t address people from low-income families who can’t afford post-secondary education. Junor argues that it isn’t the money that’s stopping them, it’s lack of intellect.
“We know from other research that students from low-income quartiles experience lower literacy rates. They have less access to social capital”?that is they traditionally come from single parent families, [and they’re] more likely to come from broken homes,” he said. “They just simply lack the little things like discussions around the dinner table. It’s a barrier that may not be able to be fixed with a cheque.”
“My education could be fixed with a cheque,” said Tremethick, the child of a middle-class family whose parents are still together. “I think everyone deserves an education, whether they come from low-income families or high-income families.”
Dalhousie student union president Johanne Galarneau agrees with Tremethick but is noticing that university is becoming increasingly segregated.
“It’s a sad reality that people from high income families go to university before the person from a lower income family does. Accessibility is being compromised,” she said. “People who have money are filling the seats.”
Those seats are remaining filled for the time being, as post-secondary education drifts further and further away from the struggling students who can’t afford it. Enrolment over the past few years has increased with tuition in Nova Scotia, but the question on everyone’s mind remains, who is actually attending university today?
The “Price of Knowledge” is available through the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation for $30. Sean Junor regrets the charge but adds, “If you don’t charge for your work, large pockets of the population don’t value your work. If it’s free, then they must not have put much work into it.”