Yesterday the PCs came under fire for announcing that a "market modifier" would be performed in Alberta post-secondary institutions: the result is an increase in five programs at the University of Alberta and three at the University of Calgary. The expected result will be an extra $21 million in tuition fees across the province.
Alberta Advanced Education Minister Don Scott reiterated Monday that the market-modifier program aims to correct “market anomalies” that see an Alberta institution charging less than a peer institution for a comparable program.Seeing how Alberta is already sending billions annually in equalization payments to these other provinces, it seems only natural that we should at the very least be competitive in our tuition pricing (slightly related, Jim Prentice should be lobbing rockets into downtown Montreal Gaza-style every week until Queerbec universities stop charging Albertan students 209% of what they charge students of their have-not province). We weren't, the Government of Alberta took steps to correct this, and now we are charging more realistic rates for our tuitions.
Who on earth could object to this?
Look, we all know Rachel Notley isn't the swiftest knife in the drawer, and now she's convinced that because the Treasury might be a little low on cash, Prentice shouldn't take steps to balance the books. No, seriously:
At a time when the strength of our oil and gas economy is faltering, our government should be encouraging diversification of our economyBecause a Masters Degree in Basket Weaving is exactly how Alberta is going to survive this temporary drop in the price of the world's most valuable commodity!
Too many young people are starting their lives saddled with mountains of student loan debtWell, Rachel, why don't you advocate to reduce this number of young people starting out with debt by explaining to the many young people who want these useless degrees that post-secondary education isn't in their best interests and divert them to technical colleges or more job-focused educational institutions? Of course, Notley's NDP counts on large swathes of youth taken right from the toxic left-wing environs of public high schools and directly into the toxic left-wing environs of a public university. Going out into the real world and paying taxes from labours which benefit the economy in order to fund Notley's political class who consume resources and almost never spit them back out upon completion? Well, that might just make you vote for Heather Forsyth! We can't have that!
In fact, the Notley ignorance on the role of the taxpayer in bankrolling post-secondary students is even deeper than that. Even with these market modifications, none of these programs come close to recouping the cost of their education with tuition fees. Even international students, who pay over double what a Canadian student would pay, are only paying (most of but not all of) the operational cost of their education. The overhead for all the capital expenses and the like? That's still courtesy the Alberta taxpayer. So when some useless progressive tits on Twitter talk about how much "revenue" this move brings in, be aware that tuitions are nowhere near high enough to make University a revenue-neutral enterprise. So this isn't so much as "generating revenue" for the province as much as it's mitigating an expense using one of the fairest things around: user fees.
User fees are a way for the people who disproportionally benefit from the service (in this case, a University of Alberta Law Degree) to also pay the highest costs for the service. As an Alberta taxpayer, we definitely don't get nearly net value from ASEC Chair Tyler Ludwig's education as he does: he'll finish 9 years demanding free money from the productive class of the economy with a Bachelor of Management degree which would result in him receiving enough pay to one day be slightly annoyed at his $45,000 annual tax bill. Surely we can expect him to throw a few extra bucks at his education? He wants us to believe his education is "worth it" for us, so how can he and his organization claim that it's not worth a bit of extra money for them? There's a public interest in keeping tuition reasonably high: it means that the monetization of the learned skills is distributed more evenly with the input costs.
But there's another public interest in high tuition, one that doesn't get much discussion: tuition is your filter.†
You see, it all stems from the universal truth ironically only denied by people in university: that not all university educations (or students!) are equal. They aren't, of course. To borrow the Mark Steyn line, an advanced degree in Transgender and Colonialism Studies isn't really of any value: be it to the student nor society writ large. So why are we paying for it? For that matter, why is the student paying for it? The answer, of course, is that the filter is broken: the mechanism (out-of-pocket costs) that ensures most if not all students will fail to recoup the cost of their education and therefore never enter it in the first place. Every student who thinks to themselves "well, I'd love to get a Sociology degree majoring in Gender, Family, and Work, but all it will really qualify me for is a career as a social worker at $18.86/hr, I'd better look at something else" is a student who was successfully stopped by the filter: stopped from wasting her time [let's be honest, this is the statement either of a chick or a guy with no balls. -ed] and her money, her decision to avoid this degree also saved the taxpayer the price of this education that did nothing but contribute to Parkinson's Law. Huge net gian for society. Meanwhile, whatever your view of lawyers they at least in theory contribute to the world around them: a law degree is a ticket to good money, and for this particular case you can see that the value to the law student (getting to be a lawyer) is very high relative to the value to the taxpayer (another lawyer). Yet the demand for the positions remain high, and since (outside of Queerbec) fees don't change depending on your province of residence, it's rather advantageous that Alberta doesn't set its prices too far away from the base average.
This is, of course, what was done.
The filter analogy, of course, works even better in this scenario than the Mark Steyn Complacency Studies version. We the taxpayer are going to push to keep the best and brightest at our schools. The way we achieve this is by having top quality students in a top quality program. The latter requires a lot of incoming funds to provide the financing: the former requires that the students who enrol are serious, committed, and talented. The talented bit is taking care of by the admissions requirement. The previous two? Well, in the same way that a bar which charges cover forces more "brand loyalty" than one who doesn't, a post-secondary system that requires the most input from the students themselves will get the brand loyalty. The end result: better students learning in a better program with less input and more benefit to the taxpayer. That's what we like to call "in the public interest" (which is why the public interest research pigs hate it so much).
The reverse scenario, a failure in the filter, is what groups like Notley's NDP or Ludwig's ASEC want to happen to higher education in Alberta: the taxpayer pays and pays and pays. Students contribute as little to the education which they receive as possible. Taxpayers end up overpaying for the degree programs, which impart much 'learning' and little actual learning in a field which there is no private sector demand worth speaking of. After this glorious degree (no pun intended) of money and time spent on the fancy piece of paper, the actual value of it in the real world is next to nothing. Alberta as a whole suffers. The economy suffers. The taxpayers who were forced to siphon money out of the economy suffer as a result. Technically the students "win" in the sense that they spent 3-8 years not having to work and studying a degree that they want for their own personal development...but do they really win? They finish school with a degree that might as well be used as birdcage lining for all the practical value it has, in an economy which hasn't reached anything close to its full potential, and the prospect of paying even more for even less when the next generation of kids grows up in a world where the NDP have been educating them since birth and tuitions are pushed to be even lower, breaking the filter even more and leading us on a slow path to mediocrity and ruin.
That's the world the NDP plan would leave us with. You can see its appeal: a steady stream of lemmings for Notley to pander her lies to, and for the Ludwigs of the world to grow up and eventually supplant her. That it comes at the cost of you and me isn't a bug to them: it's a feature.
It's the main reason that tuitions need to go up, not down.‡
† Credit here goes to the father of an engineer friend of mine, who came up with this analogy.
‡ Even if you're a current post-secondary student, you want the trend-line to go in this direction: if you're a second year student, you've already paid half the tuition you're going to pay. After you remember these are a sunk cost, ponder that for a small surcharge over the next two years (amounting to a couple hundred dollars annually) you get the reward over the rest of your life of paying fewer taxes to a wasteful system that would only benefit this small subset of people after you while impacting your real earnings.