Free tuition to be given to poverty-stricken achievers or entitled handout junkies?

There&rsquo;s a good chance that you&rsquo;ve heard what&rsquo;s been in the news recently: tuition for students whose families reside in Ontario and earn less than $50,000 a year will be paid for by the government beginning in 2017.&nbsp; Free post-secondary education is supposed to be a step towards modern socialism in Canada, in a similar fashion to the highly-envied system which operates throughout parts of Europe. Sure, providing equal opportunity for the less fortunate is wonderful in principle, but let me explain to you why I think it isn&rsquo;t in actuality, and why, for people like myself, this new program may actually serve both as a right kick in the teeth and an injustice.</p>

When I read an article on free tuition, I told my friends how “being poor was finally going to pay off.” It was a while later that I remembered that my father recently received a promotion with a hefty raise — at which point I realized sadly that I would actually no longer qualify. This made me understand the most obvious injustice behind providing free tuition for low-income families: just because my parents are making more than some set amount in a year does not mean that I’m going to receive a single penny from them. None of my older siblings received money from my parents, so it wouldn’t be fair for them to fund me.

I know I’m not the only student paying his/her own way through post-secondary education, regardless of their parents’ income. What I am, however, is someone who’s been working since his 15th birthday. I even started putting money away every week for university. But I soon found out that my new “freedom” didn’t come without its drawbacks. 

I spent three-and-a-half years working while in school. I still knew, though, that my saved money wasn’t going to get me far if I wanted to pursue a degree in engineering; I wouldn’t get through two semesters before taking on debt. I decided I needed more money, and so I got a job with my father. 

Everybody else my age was having fun and finding out what they wanted to do with their lives. I, on the other hand, was spending 48 ungodly hours each week in a loud, dirty factory loading pieces of steel into robotic jigs, often in the middle of the night. Nonetheless, I kept doing it, and saved $35,000 of my own, hard-earned cash. I felt like it was enough to go off to school and avoid taking on too much debt.

People are now petitioning the Ontario government to forgive their previous student loans as well. They say it’s unfair that low-earning students of the next generation will receive free education but they still have to pay off the debt for theirs. I worked hard so that I wouldn’t have to take on such student loans, because I knew that having an education would be more beneficial than the cost of getting it. What I didn’t work hard for was to see others receive a $30,000 or more handout while I had to spend what should have been some of the best years of my life suffering. This is what I perceive to be the true injustice.

If I can be grandfathered into not receiving financial assistance from my parents while still unable to qualify for free tuition, then everyone else should at least be grandfathered into paying what they dutifully owe. The argument behind why these people deserve such a handout only makes me more frustrated. They say that their family can’t afford to send them to school and pay the cost up front like wealthier families can, so they don’t have the same opportunity. This is clearly not the proper use of the word. Opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” I’d like to emphasize the word “possible” in that definition. Using OSAP makes it possible. Lines of credit and loans make it possible. Working hard throughout your teenage years while never being able to predict that our government might one day forgive everyone’s debt and that everything you worked hard for back then might be futile is also possible. Free tuition doesn’t make getting further education possible. Free tuition just makes it easier. 

Riley Lamers


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2A Electrical Engineering