From: [name withheld]
After the announcement of the New Brunswick Government cutting the funding and maximum amount allowed, I wrote a piece about my thoughts and feelings about it. If my piece is able to be posted that would be wonderful as I am not the only person in this situation. I just want others to hear what this change means to current and future students in New Brunswick. Thanks!
I am willing to post the letter you sent me [readers can find it below], but I’ll attach my critical response, because we can all learn from this exchange. I’ll play the devil’s advocate and refute your points, and hopefully that will help you and others. And I do want to help you, even though I recognize that some of my comments will come off as mean. They’re not supposed to be taken as mean, but rather as sincere and helpful.
My Critical Response:
You have an annoying habit of writing numbers and years in long form, which some call “Chicago style,” such as this (notwithstanding the typo or grammatical error in which you use “which” instead of “with”): “My tuition is six thousand, seven hundred and fifty-eight dollars a year, which [sic] the high possibility to rise.” And here: “…the twenty-nineteen to twenty-twenty academic year.”
Long numbers and years can be written using numerals. To do otherwise makes things utterly unreadable. You’re at least consistent, which is one important grammatical rule. [https://www.scribendi.com/advice/when_to_spell_out_numbers_in_writing.en.html]
Moreover, one of the reason tuition rises is that the university feels as though they can raise them and not lose any students. Providing funding to students feeds that beast. This is really basic supply and demand economics. Stop funding students and watch those tuitions fall. Canadians have about $28 BILLION in student loan debt. That’s a lot of historic demand.
I know something about economics because I learned about it mostly after university. I also studied economics at university — an out-of-town university (so required living outside of the family home). I paid for it all myself, even though my parents could afford to pay for it. I worked part time and ran a property maintenance business which I started. I regret having taken student loans to help pay for it all, because I’m philosophically against that now, but I paid off those loans within a few years of leaving school.
You state, “I agree that everyone should have the chance to go to some post-secondary education, private or otherwise, without having to worry about money.” I don’t agree at all. Everybody should worry about paying for the goods and services they consume. Nobody is entitled to other people’s money to provide themselves with free stuff that they want.
You must know that all university education is almost completely subsidized by the taxpayer, and that students pay only a tiny fraction of the real cost. You’re asking for more. I just want you to read that perspective, because others are thinking it as they read your letter.
Also remember a key feature of non-socialist/communist government is that they don’t have any money at all whatsoever. They only take taxpayers’ money, then spend it — redistribute it. You’re asking the government to take taxpayers’ money from them and to spend it on you personally.
You say, “That is such a burden taken off our shoulders that I don’t think I could ever express it in words.” I find this overblown, emotional, and ridiculous. It’s not that great a burden. Me and all my college-day friends can attest to that, particularly as we are now in our late 50s and have the benefit of real life experience. Going to college was by far the funnest time of our lives, in spite of how we thought at the time. On your apparent inability to “express it in words…,” you should certainly be able to express simple concepts in words if you go to university. Saying what you said here is not a great endorsement of a university education. It’s an appeal to emotions and I’m afraid it failed.
More: “…working to exhaustion between my two jobs on top of trying to stay on top of my school work.” Again overly emotional. Legitimately tens of millions of people have done it. You can too. And it’s not “working to exhaustion,” it’s just plain hard work. My post-university life didn’t turn into easy street. I work harder now.
You display some level of unwitting irony with this line: “We’re trying to make ends meet while also creating a life for ourselves.” You’re exactly not “creating a life for yourselves” if other people are paying for it upon which you demand that they pay up more.
“We are your future. We are the people who are going to take over for you when you are unable to continue to run your positions.” Sounds like a threat. And sounds like self-puffery; like you’re a little high on yourself — as if you’re the first generation in history to take over from a previous generation. This “generation” thing has been going on for thousands of years and life keeps getting better and easier.
“Why do you want us to worry about funding our education…” — You’re asking politicians, but I’ll answer as some of the sane, clear-headed ones might: because you should worry about and then fund your own needs and wants.
“All we want to be triumphant in life,…” — typo, missing “is.” This is not going to help you triumph. And being triumphant, if that’s what you want to be, is your goal to attain, not mine. I’m busy enough working through me and my family’s own lives, and on my own triumphs.
“I hope the government understands that doing this will not only make people move away from New Brunswick, which they are already having a problem with,…” — they’re not leaving for cheaper education. Also, this:
The population of New Brunswick is estimated to be 761,214, which reflects growth since the 747,101 recorded in 2016. The province has seen its population grow steadily since the 1850s…
— New Brunswick Population 2019 – World Population Review
“…but you are forcing young adults to choose between an education and a lifetime of debt.” — As I’ve said, this is just factually incorrect; and a classic false dichotomy fallacy. And by the way, most Canadians have a lifetime of debt as a result of myriad choices they made, and this includes even politicians who will read this and say just that to themselves.
Your rather stern admonishment that “You should think about the futures of others…” is (aside from sounding like a scold), again, rather ironic, because that’s exactly what they are doing. The programs you are talking about costs billions over time, which will all be paid for not by me, and not by you, but by future generations: your children and their children. That’s true of all government (taxpayer) spending. You claim to care about the future. Just yours?
This, at a minimum, is rather passive-aggressive: “Thank you for that, I hope that you will reconsider your decision as it is not a fully thought through one.” First you say thanks, then slap them upside the head for not thinking things through.
Finally, I go back to the beginning of your letter, where you state this as your opening salvo: “They had to work hard for everything they got, nothing was handed to them. I was brought up the same way, knowing that nothing should be given to me and that I should always strive to do better and work for what I want rather than asking for it.” You then carry on doing exactly what your parents didn’t bring you up to do: you ask for free stuff to be given to you at the expense of others and their hard work.
Surely you have thought all of this through yourself, though, right? The right education and skills training is important for people and society. But it’s not the only important thing in life. Food, clothing, homes to live in — these are arguably more important. Should the government provide “free” food to all from their government supplies, and open government factories to provide the masses with clothes of the type and style and color that people want, and give away free government-owned homes for the people to live in? If yes, then you are likely a communist or socialist. If no, then you see the point.
Also, as a adjunct curiosity, what exactly are you studying? Consider that taxpayers are concerned about what they — THEY — are spending THEIR money on (particularly in your scenario, but even outside of it), and judge whether they want to spend it on “that,” and whether it is worth it economically or in any other way. Many areas of study will not help society — or even you — one iota. Yet taxpayers pay nearly the full cost anyway. This is a sore point for a lot of taxpayers.
The letter the student wrote will follow, here:
An Open Letter to the Progressive Conservative Party About the Free Tuition Bursary
University of New Brunswick Saint John
April 10, 2019
To whom this may reach,
I am a first-generation student, meaning that I am the first in my family to go to university. My mother completed community college immediately after finishing high school in Quispamsis; obtaining a diploma for Business Technology and Accounting. My father went into the military after he finished high school in McAdam, now serving his twenty-fourth year as a Master Corporal. They had to work hard for everything they got, nothing was handed to them. I was brought up the same way, knowing that nothing should be given to me and that I should always strive to do better and work for what I want rather than asking for it. Of course, this also meant that if I wanted to have a successful career and live a happy life, post-secondary education was a necessity. I would need to do something past high school to be able to provide for myself in the future. For years, I didn’t think I would able to go to post-secondary due to living with a single mother. I knew it was hard for her to provide for the both of us, even when my step-father came into the picture. Between the two of them, we just made it over the sixty-thousand mark to apply for the Free Tuition Bursary; meaning that university was now an option. This made me more hopeful for my future, that maybe I wouldn’t have to be in debt to a bank for the rest of my life in order to get a degree and have success in my future.
Currently, I am working two part time jobs that accumulate to twenty or more hours a week, and four courses that also take up to twenty hours a week. Between the three of these, I am able to pay for things that I need for university such as textbooks, paper, writing instruments and gas for my car as I commute twenty minutes a day both ways to the university. I don’t have to worry about tuition because it is covered with this program. This isn’t a complaint, I understand the government cannot fully fund my degree. My complaint is now you are going to cut this fantastic program that has an estimated ninety-five hundred students who are eligible for the twenty-nineteen to twenty-twenty academic year. I woke up to the news today, at the end of my semester and just before exam season, that they are cutting the Free Tuition program by seven thousand dollars, so the maximum I would get would be three thousand dollars. I agree that everyone should have the chance to go to some post-secondary education, private or otherwise, without having to worry about money. However, I don’t believe cutting the funding for the seventy-nine percent of students who need it by seventy percent in order to “level the playing field” – as you said in your press conference about this announcement – is fair in the slightest; even though that is why you are doing this. Three thousand a year covers maybe the fees of an entire academic year. My tuition is six thousand, seven hundred and fifty-eight dollars a year, which the high possibility to rise. That doesn’t include the fees that the University of New Brunswick adds on.
So, what you are doing is not only barely covering fees for a year of schooling, but you’re ignoring the whole reason this program exists. The Government of New Brunswick states on their description of this program that “The Free Tuition Program is a new non-repayable provincial bursary designed to make post-secondary more accessible through the provision of increased upfront financial assistance. The goal of the Free Tuition Program is to ensure that tuition costs are covered for those students with the greatest financial need.”. This program has helped thousands of these students because it actually covers the tuition and most of the fees. That is such a burden taken off our shoulders that I don’t think I could ever express it in words.
However, in what world does this help the middle class? There is now four to five thousand dollars I have to make up, which means I will be working to exhaustion between my two jobs on top of trying to stay on top of my school work. This is, of course, if I can make up the money, and I am not alone in this. If I want to complete my degree, which I am already thirty thousand dollars of debt into, I will have to take out a student loan from a bank on top of my two jobs. This was my last resort. I have no money saved up, I am in a position where I cannot afford to put money aside for my tuition, especially the amount I will be expected to pay in the upcoming academic year. There are thousands of other students in the same situation as I am. We’re trying to make ends meet while also creating a life for ourselves.
We are your future. We are the people who are going to take over for you when you are unable to continue to run your positions. Why would you try to limit us? Why do you want us to worry about funding our education while also trying to excel academically in said education? Why do you want us to worry about not having a post-secondary education when all we want is to be as successful as our parents? All we want to be triumphant in life, doing something we are passionate about and are good at.
You cannot just work as an engineer because you finished high school and got good marks. You cannot just become a doctor or nurse because it is your childhood dream. You cannot just become a business owner because you have an idea that you think could make money. These professions take an education, one that we thought we could have if we stayed in New Brunswick. I thought I could have a degree that I was proud of, but half way through it, prepared for my third year, and it looks like I won’t even be able to start my third year because only a third of it is paid for. I am registered for courses required for my degree next year that I will never be able to take.
I hope the government understands that doing this will not only make people move away from New Brunswick, which they are already having a problem with, but you are forcing young adults to choose between an education and a lifetime of debt. This shouldn’t have to be a worry for us. This program has helped thousands upon thousands to have an education, while also keeping money and people in New Brunswick. You should think about the futures of others before trying to undo things that past politicians have done to better the lives of the future generation.
Thank you for that, I hope that you will reconsider your decision as it is not a fully thought through one.
Some links to more reading (from outside of PTBC):
- “I still can’t believe I’m typing that phrase” - Sunday May 9, 2021 at 8:38 am
- Some recovery, Trudeau, Liberals: Canada loses 207,000 jobs in “recovery” April. - Friday May 7, 2021 at 9:01 am
- She said what now? - Thursday May 6, 2021 at 4:54 pm