The philosophy of college education

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): Sometimes it does feel like students are expected to pay their weight in gold for college these days. padrefilar via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

It was meant to open doors, but few can afford the cost of the key

College education is something that is out of reach for many people. In a world that preaches education being a human right, the real wake-up call comes when you’re an adult and are faced with tuition costs. College education is not only a privilege; it is also a commodity. Universities rely on students for a large portion of their revenue, paying for facilities and access to campus.

The Canadian education system is brutal. Immigrants and international students often have an even harder time navigating its complexities and nuances. There is little to no guidance. You’re simply thrown into this world and expected to figure things out on your own.  Moreover, the western education systems look down on those in the Global South. All education is not equal. Some are deemed more worthy. This is why immigrants are forced to start over and gain brand new, western-approved credentials. It doesn’t matter how many years they have spent studying and honing their craft. Once they arrive in Canada all of that gets thrown out the window. I have met people who used to be professors, lawyers, and academics in their home countries who now work for a minimum wage in Canada.

Moreover, aid for college students is not easily accessible, and the little we receive is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, supplies, and other associated costs. Meanwhile, my friends in Europe and especially Scandinavian countries are being paid to attend university. A good friend of mine paid around $200 last semester as tuition. We often talk about inflation and the rising costs of living, but we need to focus on how this affects college education. In this day and age, it is difficult to accomplish certain things without a Bachelor’s degree. It is bare minimum at this point.

Moreover, the older I’m getting, the more I’m realizing that even a Bachelor’s degree is not enough, which is why many people choose to attend graduate school. According to Statistics Canada, tuition fees for university programs increased for both undergraduate and graduate students for the 2020/2021 academic year. Keep in mind we were (and are) still in a pandemic, and despite the promise of relief tuition is still rising. The pandemic has emphasized the financial concerns of many students. On top of that, the job market is unpredictable due to the pandemic.

Statistics Canada’s crowdsourcing initiative highlighted that around two-thirds (67 per cent) of post-secondary students were extremely concerned about their lack of job prospects in the near future, a by-product of the pandemic. On top of that, over three-quarters (77 per cent) of returning students showed concerns about their finances. Even after the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, 46 per cent of participants showed uncertainty regarding their ability to pay tuition for the fall 2020 term. Undergraduate tuition has increased by 1.9 per cent in provinces such as Prince Edward Island to 5.7 per cent in Saskatchewan. For international students, the average tuition was $32,019 in a 2020/2021 term.

Furthermore, college education in Canada is more general until you get to the Master’s and PhD levels. It isn’t until your third or fourth year that you start tackling and focusing on the nuances of your program. Prior to that, the first few years are almost freewheeling, as you’re focused on taking electives and general education classes that have little to do with your major. When I talk to my European friends, their programs are often times more focused and they don’t spend any energy on topics outside of their realm of degree.

I personally prefer that style of education in comparison to Canada’s. I spent the first two years of my undergrad taking random classes I had no interest in because, although they were required, they weren’t focused on my program. Now that I’m in my fourth year, all of my classes are focused on my major and I don’t have to take any more classes outside of that. I understand the importance of general education classes, but is that not what high school is meant for? I don’t see the point of taking calculus again in university when I also took it in high school. It seems redundant, but that’s just me.

The college education system is designed to extort students. It is simply daylight robbery. The reality is that grants aren’t even available for everyone. It’s an extremely selective process that neglects some. I won’t be surprised if another graduate degree level is introduced in the next few decades. Universities are not here to cater to students as customers, they’re here to line their pockets.

It’s very easy to forget that, ultimately, this is a business. It shouldn’t be that way, but nothing can be done to tackle it. With tuition costs rising, the quality of college education is not improving. At the height of the pandemic, new costs were introduced to target the shift to online classes. It almost feels like newer costs are being added each year. It is almost impossible to pay for college out of pocket, and, in the end, students are forced to sign up for student loans that will keep them in debt for a very long time. At some point, you are not even paying for the loan itself. Rather, you are simply paying the interest. It’s an exploitative system that preys on college students, and student debt relief is not doing as much as it needs to.

The harshest truth to face is that the world of higher education is a privilege. It’s often advertised as a right, but that does not translate to reality. It is a myth that politicians and humanitarian organizations love to preach from their moral high ground. Students of today are dealing with a future that is uncertain and at times feels bleak.

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