Higher Education: Time to re-invest.

April 11, 2016


Among the most basic imperatives that the New Democratic Party was founded to address are the reduction of inequality, and widening opportunity for our citizens.

In Nova Scotia, the experience of post-secondary students offers a stark illustration of how far we still have to go. The deregulation of tuition fees for 2016-17 is allowing the cost of an education to skyrocket once again. Students are graduating with unprecedented levels of debt, severely compromised in their ability to contribute economically and sustain fulfilling lives.

As the cost of education increases, completing a post-secondary degree too often remains a privilege of the economically advantaged–a scandal in a society that claims to value educational opportunities for all.

Those who are fortunate enough to be able to attend college or university still face institutional barriers to succeeding in school–not least of which is the alarming rate of sexual assault on campuses. Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia reminded me, during a recent meeting, that the Liberal provincial government continues to refuse to pass Bill 144: a Bill the NDP introduced in 2015 that would require all post-secondary institutions to have sexual assault policies.
How can we consider education to be a universal right, yet permit a culture in which women and transgender students are exposed to violence on a daily basis?

Then there is the reality many students face when they are working their way through school, or trying to establish some basic financial security after graduation. With minimum wages that fall well below livable rates, we have to wonder how young people can get by–let alone get ahead.

The student representatives with whom I met shared a set of recommendations for the upcoming provincial budget that address these core concerns: a reduction of tuition fees by 15%, restoring public funding to 2011 levels, a commitment to address sexualized violence on campuses, including international students in medical insurance, and doing away with unpaid government internships.

These are the types of recommendations which, if adopted, would set us on a path toward realizing what this moment so clearly requires of us: an Investment in a Generation.

We need to reverse the argument that it is acceptable to place our collective debt on the shoulders of young people.

Affordable and inclusive education must be sustained as a right. ¬†That is part of the core mission of the NDP–and we all should be proud that this is so.

In solidarity and hope,