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Manitoba Bill 2 on tuition fees

genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

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genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

So, the Manitoba government has proposed Bill 2, legislation which they claim will limit tuition increases at the rate of inflation:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/province-plans-to-codify-universi...

Unfortunately, the proposed bill doesn't really do what is intended. The two main problems are:

1. A weak enforcement mechanism which only harms students if universities decide to raise tuition anyways

2. The legislation manages to have so many loopholes that 53% of students are not protected by hard caps on tuition increases

http://cfsmb.ca/en/section/59

The CFS is clearly upset about this, and are making a bit of noise: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/student-protests-mulled-here-1556...

At the same time, former NDP cabinet minister Al Mackling is coming out in favour of free tuition: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/have-your...

My thoughts:

I'm not happy about any tuition increase.  I believe that tuition fees should be zero or a token amount, so any tuition increase is moving us further from that goal.

I'd hope the student unions in Manitoba are able to fight this.  That said, I'm not sure the student unions anywhere in English Canada have what it takes to pull off a mobilization anywhere near what is going on in Quebec, so I'm not sure how things will work out on that front.

It's also pretty clear that what this legislation is doing is trying to find a technocratic solution to a political debate.  Instead of talking about what tuition fees should be, this legislation is an attempt to short-circuit that debate by saying that they should increase at a rate of inflation.  This sounds reasonable at first glance, but two obvious questions are "why?" and "who decided that the current level was a good baseline?"

On the plus side, this is at least a backtracking from Selinger's position in the leadership contest that tuition should increase by 5% a year, which I believe would have been the highest percentage increase in Canada at the time (no wonder Ashton won all those youth delegates!).  But it's still problematic, and I think there is a conscious effort to push this legislation through, because depoliticizing the issue neutralizes a potential threat in progressive circles.  The NDP's base is likely looking up to the Quebec students, and rumour has it that tuition fees have been a controversial issue within the party since the NDP decided to drop the freeze.  I'm sure the inner circle wants to avoid the political debate, so they're throwing out this legislation to end the debate and make it sound like they've come up with a "reasonable" solution.

Finally, the government has left open so many loopholes that universities can use to sneak tuition increases through, that the legislation starts to look like swiss cheese.  This could bog down student unions with trying to stop universidy administrations from sneaking through the holes, rather than engaging in the debate.  Students in professional programs might still have to deal with massive proposed fee increases.  This has happened under the tuition freeze, where students in certain faculties saw massive tuition increases, and I believe something like 12 or 13 faculties tried (but with one exception, failed) to jack up fees last year at the U of M.

so... thoughts?


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Solution:  Les Casseroles in Manitoba! Smile


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Before I weigh in... some questions:

1. Have students ever protested against tuition fee hikes - or for fee cuts?

2. How do bursaries work in Manitoba?

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Capping the rate of increases in tuition and in university expenditures at the rate of inflation should be a no-brainer (no offense intended to those without brains)...


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

Unionist wrote:

Before I weigh in... some questions:

1. Have students ever protested against tuition fee hikes - or for fee cuts?

Yeah, I can remember the CFS and local student unions running several campaigns over the years against tuition fee hikes, the most recent being the Feb 1 campaign:  http://educationisaright.ca/en/section/31

I recall there was also a big campaign to keep the tuition freeze when that was eliminated, and a lot of noise then.  There was the "Drop Fees" campaigns a few years ago as well.  Also, there have been smaller campaigns against specific tuition hikes, opposing what was coming through the loopholes in the tuition freeze.

(I'm going by memory, so some of those might be jumbled together)

Of course, like with the rest of English Canada, those campaigns tend to be more "one-off" rallies and days of action than ongoing, militant mobilizations like we see in Quebec.


genstrike
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Sven wrote:

Capping the rate of increases in tuition and in university expenditures at the rate of inflation should be a no-brainer (no offense intended to those without brains)...



First off, the problem with this specific legislation is that while it has this goal in mind (presumably), it manages to screw it up so badly that it essentially makes the rate of inflation a floor for tuition increases, not a cap.

University administrations tend to raise tuition by the maximum amount they can get away with.  So, the rate of inflation is a starting point.  Then, on top of that, add whatever loopholes (and there are many) in the legislation that they can use to sneak other increases in.  So, the legislation basically makes inflation a floor.

Now, on to a somewhat deeper political criticism of your statement

What is so special about the amount that is being charged now that makes it a suitable baseline for inflationary increases though?  Supporting inflationary increases is basically claiming that in this jurisdiction and this specific time, we've hit on the "right" tuition level.

Do you have any evidence that the current level for tuition fees in Manitoba in 2012 is the "correct" amount to charge students, in real dollars, from now until the end of time?

Why do we have it "right" now?  Had tuition increases been capped at the rate of inflation in 1990, it would be at a lot different amount than if it was capped in 2011.

In fact, I'd say that the current level of tuition fees is an essentially arbitrary number, based on the preferences of past governments and the militancy and activity of students in opposing tuition increases (see: Quebec). 

And, since this arbitrary number varies wildly by jurisdiction, which jurisdiction has it right?  Or do they all have it right?  Is $2,519 the magic number for Quebec and $6,640 right for Ontario?

It seems to me like it is those advocating for inflationary increases are the ones without brains (or at least, refusing to use them).  Rather than actually think about what tuition should be, they prefer to just say "inflation, end of debate, anyone who disagrees with me has no brain" and be done with thinking about complex political, social and economic issues like tuition fees.

Secondly, this statement essentially "signs off" on previous tuition fee increases.  So, say a draconian government comes in and doubles tuition fees.  Isn't adopting a policy of capping tuition increases at the rate of inflation retroactively supporting those massive tuition increases?


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Your point is well taken, genstrike. 

I guess my point is that because university spending has far outstripped the rate of inflation, at least in the USA, limiting future spending increases to the rate of inflation would be a huge step in the right direction. 

As far as tuition goes, whether it's $2,500 or $6,500 per year, it's a steal, especially if poor students are given help with those amounts. 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Sven wrote:

As far as tuition goes, whether it's $2,500 or $6,500 per year, it's a steal, especially if poor students are given help with those amounts. 

Yup. And $10,000 would be a steal for surgery which saves your life, especially if poor folks are given help with payment.

But our society has decided that the surgery should be free of charge, even if you're a billionaire.

And that's the discussion that needs to be held about postsecondary education.

@genstrike:

FYI, the official policy of Pauline Marois's PQ, you know, the one who hypocritically wears the red square, is that tuition fees should increase by the rate of inflation. They've had to somewhat put that in abeyance, so that they can pretend to be on the side of the students, who are fighting for no increase. That battle is tactical too, because the movement doesn't yet have the strength to start reducing and ultimately eliminating fees altogether - although that's an aim which has never been relinquished.

Connecting tuition fee increases with increases in spending on education is an exercise in sophistry. No need to comment on it further.

We don't believe in user fees for people who suffer a medical disability - right? Ignorance and unenlightenment are disabilities. They should not incur user fees either. Society needs to get there, as they did for K-12 in the rest of Canada, and for K-11 plus 2 or more years of CÉGEP in Québec.

That doesn't eliminate the need for defensive struggles like the one in Québec, or whatever is (I hope) on the horizon in Manitoba. But I can't intelligently comment on what the shape or the short-term goals of that struggle in your situation should be. I'd like to hear more about what you think is feasible and how far students are prepared to go, and do they have any allies?

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Please stop lecturing, Unionist. 

:P


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Great post, Unionist. Thanks!


The Analyst
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Joined: Aug 7 2011

I have to admit some partiality to "technocratic solutions to political issues". I personally think that there should be a progressive tuition system, starting with fees of -$15,000 (that is, the university GIVES the student 15K) in 2002 CND for the lowest income percentile and going up from their. The people who should decide which students get accepted, btw, should be utterly seperate (to the point of being in an officeplace in another part of city)  than the regular administrators, so as to prevent an under-selection of "less (in fact, negatively) profitable" poor students. 


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

So, an update, by way of what folks who were there told me:

It went to second reading a couple days ago, on very short notice.  Despite the lack of notice, about 30 people presented at committee, all calling for it to be amended, including representatives from student unions and labour unions.

Our boys in parliament, the responsive bunch they are, carefully listened to our well-researched positions.  And recommended that the legislation move forward as written, without any amendments.

So, in short, the NDP is trying to ram through shitty legislation and ignoring the voices of students and workers.  The very people that the NDP claims to be on the side of and asks to help with their re-election campaigns every few years.  Nice.

Lots of people are pissed.


Aristotleded24
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Joined: May 24 2005

genstrike wrote:
So, in short, the NDP is trying to ram through shitty legislation and ignoring the voices of students and workers.  The very people that the NDP claims to be on the side of and asks to help with their re-election campaigns every few years.  Nice.

And watch them all rally behind the NDP in 2015 because Brian Pallister was part of Filmon's Cabinet when Filmon fired 1000 nurses and sold MTS and how Pallister will sell Hydro if he's elected.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Aristotleded24 wrote:

And watch them all rally behind the NDP in 2015 because Brian Pallister was part of Filmon's Cabinet when Filmon fired 1000 nurses and sold MTS and how Pallister will sell Hydro if he's elected.

Yeah, those dumb workers and students, they yell and scream, and then cave.

Mind you, I will always admire how the NDP, after yelling and screaming about the privatization of MTS while in opposition, promptly moved to re-nationalize it once in power.

That did happen, didn't it?

 


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

Unionist wrote:

Before I weigh in... some questions:

1. Have students ever protested against tuition fee hikes - or for fee cuts?

Perhaps you didn't intend that statement to come out quite that way, but I got a big laugh out of it in any case.

I mean, I know the rest of us must seem like layabouts, but yes, students in Manitoba have protested tuition hikes, cutbacks to education funding, access to grants and bursaries, and a number of other education issues.... oh maybe once or twice in the past 30 years.

 

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

6079_Smith_W wrote:

 

Perhaps you didn't intend that statement to come out quite that way, but I got a big laugh out of it in any case.

I mean, I know the rest of us must seem like layabouts, but yes, students in Manitoba have protested tuition hikes, cutbacks to education funding, access to grants and bursaries, and a number of other education issues.... oh maybe once or twice in the past 30 years.

Sorry - I was looking for information. I was just trying to see what tradition existed of fighting, stopping, reversing fee hikes. I appreciate your reply, but I'm still interested in having the information.

To illustrate what I have in mind, here's a sketchy but decent description from the Gazette of major student actions here since the 1950s:

Québec student protests have deep roots

Without that history, it's inconceivable that students would be fighting the way they are now, or indeed that tuition fees would be as low as they are.

Is there some similar sketch of Manitoba student history available?

 


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

It has been awhile since I studied there, so I can't help you with that. I did find this interesting tidbit though. If these numbers aren't fudged, it looks like Manitoba is the best place in Canada to be an international student:

http://www.gov.mb.ca/ie/study/tuition.html

And regular tuition fees are below most provinces as well:

http://www.gov.mb.ca/ctt/invest/busfacts/qu_oflife/ql_ac_fees.html 


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/martin/199202402.html

Nick Martin wrote:

What Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby didn’t say is pretty scary.

For those given to speculation and conspiracy theories, it could suggest the Selinger government may be reneging on its funding promise to universities and colleges.

A week after Alberta backtracked on its commitment to universities, Selby refused repeatedly this week to confirm that the province would carry out its promise to increase grants five per cent next school year and to cap tuition increases at cost of living.

I've heard this rumour corroborated through the grapevine, so I'm pretty sure Nick Martin is on to something and not just talking out of his ass.

So... putting forward and ramming through legislation which includes three-year funding projections, then reneging on those promises within the first three years is kind of an epic fail on the NDP's part.  Kind of defeats the purpose of these "projections" if the government proves them to be not credible by pulling a stunt like this.

I haven't seen such a fail on keeping promises since... well, the last time the Manitoba NDP made a promise about tuition fees.


genstrike
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Joined: May 1 2008

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/post-secondary-funding-to-feel-fi...

Dan Lett wrote:
It appears Manitoba's universities will be among those groups feeling the pinch when the province tables its budget April 16.

Sources have confirmed the NDP government will cut in half the increase in total funding to universities that was expected this year.

The schools had planned on a five per cent increase in base funding this year, the last of a three-year funding agreement. Sources confirmed the funding provided in the 2013-14 budget will now be 2.5 per cent.

Not a budget cut, per se. But less than the schools expected, and no doubt less than they would argue they need.

Sometimes, when I'm right, I'm right...


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