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Priceless or worthless?

Nova Scotia doesn’t need any universities. Want a job? Go to community college. Want an arts degree? Go to Ontario. Too far, too expensive? Go online. Why bother paying? Sure, a diploma is nice, but it doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

Nova Scotia doesn’t need any universities.
Want a job? Go to community college. Want an arts degree? Go to Ontario. Too far, too expensive? Go online. Between iTunesU, MIT, and HarvardOnline, you’re pretty much getting the same education as sitting in a lecture hall day in and day out. Why bother paying? Sure, a diploma is nice, but it doesn’t mean as much as it used to.
This is the problem with defending post-secondary education in economic terms. Economically, university makes no sense. Allowing the debate to be fought on dollars-and-cents issues is meeting the O’Neills of the world on their own turf. Laura Penny, FYP lecturer and author, argued for this approach when she gave a public “teach-out” against the report. Fact is, governments don’t understand long-term investments.
Follow it logically: higher tuition means fewer students, fewer students means less research, fewer theses, less art, and less Halifax.
As Penny points out, “The critical mass of students is one of the reasons why there is, on any given weekend in Halifax, a bunch of cool things to hear and see and do and interesting people to talk to.”
Universities are not utilitarian machines through which we prepare students for practical integration into society (just ask a Classics major). They are bubbles of culture and thought, and hanging signs saying “no poor kids allowed” on the doors is ignoring a huge base of untapped resources in our society. Furthermore, offloading austerity measures onto universities is politically expedient but it’s like getting a vasectomy at the age of 18; it’s a bad long-term move that seemed like a good idea at the time.
The products of universities are not measurable, so it’s impossible to really expect students to pay at all. For example, Penny points out that cops with a BA are less likely to beat people. How do you put a price on that? But the worth of arts degrees are still questioned and tuition fees continue to increase. Why?
Well, the answer is obvious. The government can cut corners at universities because students don’t vote, so it has nothing to lose. That’s why activism against this report needs to take on a new face. If you try and talk to this government in terms of why it’s bad economics, they just tell you that everyone needs to make sacrifices. It’s all part of getting “back to balance”, they say.
Show them that there’s no balance in undercutting the core of Nova Scotian society. Our province already relies heavily on a resource-based economy and we haven’t got a huge population, but gosh darn it, we’ve got brains and culture and we’re not about to give that up.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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