The author of this letter has written a clarification to the opinions expressed below, which can be read here: http://theaquinian.netletter-to-the-editor-clarification-and-apology-for-what-free-tuition-means-to-me/
A perspective often not taken seriously in discussions of post-secondary education public policy, and sort of left out of the recent article on universal free tuition, is the perspective of the high-income families and students.
Feeling honest about this topic, I have written this letter to the editor on what universal free tuition means to me, and many of my high-income peers, to add a new perspective to the discourse being discussed among students at St. Thomas University.
Growing up, I was never at a lack of basic necessities in life. Filet mignon, video games, trips around the country, Armani clothing, expensive chocolate and high quality school supplies were all regularly accessible to me on an at-needs basis. I had every advantage handed to me in life to make cruising through it as easy as possible.
High school was a joke to me. The amount of effort needed to succeed was laughable with all the advantages I had going into it. I finished with a 92 per cent average, which was quite slack of me compared to the more motivated high-income students. Nonetheless, this seemed impressive enough to get me into any school I wanted with the potential for full-ride scholarships to follow.
So, I took advantage of this and picked a nearby school that offered me $25,000, about a full ride. I also applied for other scholarships and took advantage of other opportunities to make as much money on my undergraduate degree as possible. In total, I accrued a little more than $40,000 during five years of my undergraduate degree, but if I included the money I’m still making from schooling, it’s gone up to about $72,000.
Housing was also not a concern for me. I had a two-story suburban home to myself while my parents went off to live in New York and France. I did not pay a single cent of rent or any significant bills besides my own fibre optic internet. So, all this money I was making was pure profit.
I actually had access to even more money, such as an education fund my parents invested in, but I didn’t need it in the end. I let them spend it. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually quite common among rich families. I once dated a woman whose parents used her education fund on a family Caribbean cruise. She didn’t need it either.
When you’re rich, making money is easy. People just throw it at you because they see your status and perceived abilities as worth investing in. The head start you get through all your social determinants of success being met, gives you access to so many more opportunities others could only dream of.
So, universal free tuition to me, I think, would be a neat investment on the stock market. I like to grow my assets. An extra $36,000 to $44,000 over four or five years could go a long way. However, that is just how I would spend the money. My peers would probably have different things in mind. Some might take extra yearly trips to Hawaii. Others might use it to buy yearly new phones, customize their cars, get more cocaine or pay for Tinder Gold. The possibilities for empty self-indulgences are almost endless.
Last summer, I worked at a boat club. One day, me and my equally rich co-worker were discussing what $1,500 phone he should gift himself before leaving for his year-long trip to Singapore (he’s going to save so much money on food going to a place like that). Arthur Irving Jr.’s yacht, the Halcion II, came by with his kids. As I stood there admiring the nicest yacht on the dock, I also wondered what the oldest kid would do with the money they would save/receive from universal free tuition.
Probably pay for another tank of gas.
To those students on campus arguing for universal free tuition because of expenses they are personally dealing with in life: I think a better solution is to focus on policy ideas that address the specific needs you need met, like legislation on affordable student housing, open educational resources or expanding tuition relief for the middle class to cover more middle-income families. Anything to help you and those students that need help the most. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the New Brunswick Student Alliance have already done some great work to help alleviate the costs of education for students in New Brunswick and they are always open to effective new ideas.
But please stop advocating for a regressive policy that adds nothing new in New Brunswick but give us rich folks more free money. We’re already so far ahead.
Philippe Ferland, St. Thomas University Students’ Union President 2017-18