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Vol 38  No 11
March 16, 2006


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Student View




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Student View

By Megan Jackman



It’s not free, but it’s the next best thing

“Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?”

­ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Tuition, and the cost of almost everything else, has significantly increased within the last 30 years. While we are currently under a tuition freeze, other necessary costs like groceries continue to rise. Certainly, the rise is a slow one but it never appears that way to a student.

Now I know these are not the days of students sparing the content of one meal over an entire three days. And, if you are not wearing a winter jacket on these frosty mornings, it may just be a part of your current fashion statement versus lack of money. On the other hand, we hope that each and every student has the means to attain the necessities required to live, though one can never really be sure.

Since I am a student, too, I can appreciate the worry that stems from financing each semester; money for tuition, food, rent, and not to mention books (a subject which deserves an article all its own) never fails to overwhelm me with the beginning of each semester.

Because we are already bogged down with everyday expenses and because we are among those willing to commit at least four years of our lives to studying, should we be granted free post-secondary education? Ah yes, the “free education” idea: a seed, I am sure, that was planted long before this generation of students.

Once upon a time in Newfoundland (on March 8, 1965), an enchanted premier by the name of Joseph Smallwood thought it wise to institute a “free education” system and did just that (or, more correctly, did just that thanks to the efforts of past Memorial student Rex Murphy). There were limitations to this system, however. It applied only to students from Newfoundland entering their first year of studies at Memorial. Free education, however, is one of those things that seems great in theory but is flawed in action.

Unfortunately, the learning-for-free deal was equally enticing to those interested more in living it up at the expense of the government and less in the pursuit of higher learning! Consequently, the free tuition system was soon ousted.

Personally, even though it would be lovely, I cannot see a free tuition system being feasible now or anytime in the near future. I am not a fan of spending money I don’t have on tuition each semester. But alas, grande credito (a.k.a. the student loan) can help a select population of us out.

And, well, for the remainder of us (those who do not qualify for a student loan), if we have no other options, we can turn to a student line of credit offered by a number of banks.

Just a few days ago I was reading comments posted on an internet forum for Canadian students. One contributor had posted the comment: “Free tuition, with performance related strings attached, has no downside that I can see.” Well, sorry, but we do not live in fantasy land.

Yes, it would be great to study hard with the motive that your education will be free if you succeed. But currently there are just too many other issues to consider: professors have to be paid, money is needed for education facilities and the government can not be expected to commit their entire budget to these costs.

Furthermore, what is meant by “performance related strings?” Does this suggest that those who get all A’s get their free tuition while those who get C’s with some B’s do not; not everyone would be capable of attaining such grades. With a “you get free education but oh sorry not you, you did not meet the performance standard this semester” system, there would be far more problems and complaints to be dealt with than there are right now.

Today, Memorial tuition fees are among the lowest in Canada. At $255 per course, a Canadian student will pay $2,550 for two semesters with a full course load (i.e. five courses each semester). Even with regard to tuition rates for international students, Memorial proves to be among the most affordable with a cost of $8,800 each year (i.e. 10 courses).

It is not very often that I hear fellow students complain about the cost of their tuition here at Memorial. In fact, a student from Ontario once told me that the cost of attending Memorial plus travel home and living expenses, all combined, was less than what she would have to pay in tuition alone if she had attended university at home.

Still, rare occasions remind me that some students still do not realize how fortunate they are to be attending Memorial. It is disheartening to hear students complain that, “The money we have to pay for education is outrageous,” or “We’re not getting anywhere as long as tuition keeps increasing our debts.”

Our debts could indeed be much higher and, not only that, I think such remarks diminish the solidarity of the student body; current and past students have spent far too many hours organizing tuition-freeze marches and campaigns for other students to complain.

Would a free tuition system be the cure for our financial worries? In my mind, not likely. In response to Emerson’s rhetorical question, I cannot remember a time when absolutely no one thought the times were hard and money scarce. We need something to be grateful for, not something to dwell on with sorrow. Right now, let’s be grateful for low tuition.

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