“The message we will give every one of our kids is if you get the grades, you get to go.”
Those were the words of the Liberal Party of Canada’s leader Michael Ignatieff as he announced one of his party’s election promises: The Canadian Learning Passport. In addition to existing student loans and other programs that Canadians have access to education, the Liberals are proposing a $1 billion program that would give a non-repayable bursary (grant) to families to help them pay for their children’s education. The program would provide:
- $4,000 tax-free for every high school student who chooses to go to university, college or CÉGEP — $1,000 per year over four years
- $6,000 — or $1,500 each year — for high school students from low-income families.
Worth the trouble?
This sounds like a nice handout, but will it really help?
- First, based on current tuition and living costs in Canada, one year of full-time tuition and living expenses is at least $15,000. For low income students, that means that the Learning Passport would take care of about 10% of their expenses. For young Canadians who cannot afford to go to university, $1500 per year is not going to change that.
- Second, experts are questioning whether we really need more university graduates in Canada. We already have one of the highest post secondary education rates in the world in Canada, yet we don’t have enough tradespeople.
- Third, for upper and middle class Canadians, this isn’t anything to get excited about either. The government will essentially be taking the money out of your right pocket and putting it back into your left pocket.
Interestingly, when the Conservatives implemented a $100 per month payment to parents of children under 6 instead of putting a national universal daycare system into place, a Liberal Party aide quipped that Canadians would “blow [the money] on beer and popcorn.” I wonder what they think university students would blow the money on?
Learning from daycare policies.
There are many paralells between this and the daycare situation. It comes down to giving pennies to people to do with as they please versus directing money to the areas that it is most needed. The former may be more popular with voters who can afford daycare and university, but the latter is what will truly make a difference in the lives of people who are currently unable to access quality daycare and quality education.
Instead of giving random handouts of $1000 or $1500 per year to anyone who meets the minimum criteria to get into university, perhaps our government should be focusing on providing a higher level of funding to those students who show exceptional potential and otherwise would not be able to afford to go. Instead of throwing $1000 a year at middle class families who would find a way to send their kids one way or another, why not look into providing $10,000 or $15,000 a year to those who really cannot afford it?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image credit: brian.ch on flickr