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Alex Ted Russel

Time to liberalize post-secondary education in Canada

More students are enrolling in post-secondary education, as many realise that one’s high school diploma is not worth the paper it is printed on. The Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services (Drummond Report) projects that, on average, the enrolment rate will increase at 1.7% annually. This will inevitably cause tuition increases for students (Drummond: pp. 33). Students would only enrol in a program if they felt that the net benefit derived from the program was greater than the net cost of the program. Provided they were subject to market forces, post-secondary institutions (PSI), as suppliers of education, would likewise be incentivised to offer programs that would provide the greatest net benefit to students, at the lowest cost possible. However PSIs are not subject to the accountability of the invisible hand, rather they have taken the poisoned chalice of government money. This direct access to the treasury does two things: it creates a disincentive for savings to be made and incentivises vested interests that bids up input costs. Numbers from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (Drummond Report: pp. 246) reveal that the single largest cost to universities is labour – which accounts for 72.2% of every full time student’s tuition fees. Most campus jobs are unionised and trade unions rationally desire to inflate wages. I must stress that trade unions are only one of the many vested interests that walk the corridors of a PSI. Unions ask for control over workplace procedures, employment practices, and pay-scales in the collective agreement, which impedes innovation and quality. While any rational corporation wants to keep labour peace, sometimes market demands of cost minimisation and innovation do not necessarily fulfill the wishes of trade unions. PSIs are not subject to these forces; and the direct incentive is to preserve the labour peace. If… Read More