It begins with a lament about universities being reduced to peddling a degree as a marketable commodity---a financial investment designed to return on money spent. But we must remember our audience---this report was written to address the state of our universities in the midst of “emerging financial and demographic challenges.”
In short, this is about brass tacks. How are we going to keep these schools solvent?
O’Neill’s recommendation is to allow tuition fees to be whatever the market will bear---as opposed to the current price ceiling. He justifies his position by saying it is unfair for poor and middle-class taxpayers to subsidize the children of the wealthy who attend in disproportionate numbers. To which the author responds by suggesting that a better solution would be to subsidize education by increasing income taxes.
The problem with this solution is two-fold. Firstly, Nova Scotians already pay the highest income tax in the nation, a fact which saps our standard of living and our ability to attract and keep high earners. People respond to incentives, and this is a strong one to stay away.
Secondly, this transfer would not be simply from the rich to students. Since a large number of students come from outside of the province, paying for lower tuition with higher taxes would burden local taxpayers with the cost of educating those who come to study and then leave.
The benefits of a university education are numerous, varied and significant and, like in anything else, those who benefit should have to pay the cost.
—Gerald Walsh, Halifax