Here is an article that I recently wrote. I can’t help but feel that it is important to share it:
“I am a fifth year university student. I expect to graduate next year. Let’s face it: whatever changes are made to the university now won’t really affect me. But they will affect the lives of future university students for better or for worst. And they will also affect Canadian society as a whole. This begs the question: how are Canadians affected by lack of funding and funding cuts to universities?
Let’s look at some of the positive things that universities do for our society. There are many such advantages. For one, university graduates are more likely to have health insurance provided to them by their employer. This saves the government money in a number of ways: people with health care have less health issues, the government doesn’t have to pay for any treatments and medication, and the children of the university graduates will likely be healthier than their peers. University graduates will also likely get jobs that pay more than their uneducated peers, which means that they will have more money to put into the economy. They also put more into the economy by paying higher taxes. Moreover, university graduates are more likely to vote at 78% of graduates voting verses less than 60% of non-university educated people.
All of the above benefits directly affect our society. However, there are also more indirect effects on society which can be correlated to having a university educated populace. One such benefit is the fact that university graduates are significantly less likely to go to prison than those with no university degree. University graduates also tend to be involved in their community and volunteer more. Furthermore, university graduates are less likely to be unemployed. Finally, university helps get rid of gender disparities where employment is concerned. 58% of undergrads are women, which means that women are far more likely to be able to enter career fields that are traditionally male dominated fields, and they are far more likely to gain higher positions and make more.
It is quite clear that Canadians as a whole benefit from having a university educated populace. But what does that have to do with funding? There is a major problem with how funding works where universities are concerned. Universities, like grade schools, are either public or private. The public universities, like the University of Calgary, benefit from government funding. But they cannot survive on government funding alone, especially when the government keeps cutting their funding. So universities get money in other ways. We are all aware of the tuition hikes that occur when funding is cut, and many courses and faculties can be cut or changed too. But universities do still get funding from private donators. This, however, is problematic. Why? Because private donators can direct the funds that they give wherever they want. This means that a university can find itself in a position where a new building, which is completely unnecessary, is being built for one faculty, while another faculty is forced to cut courses and let professors go, or maybe even join another faculty. In Alberta, it is the oil and gas companies who have the most to offer, and the most to gain, when it comes to donating to universities. So, who benefits? The engineering and business students. And who suffers? Everybody else.
This isn’t to say that there is a problem with oil and gas companies investing in students and universities, but other fields are important too, and we are ignoring them. It is common to hear people complain about students getting degrees that don’t benefit anyone and won’t make them money. Parents often tell their children to go into programs that will have immediate benefits on their financial situation. So what are the benefits of other programs? Well, two obvious programs that get ignored in Alberta are education and medicine. What are the benefits of getting an education degree? Teachers educate the next generation. They are responsible for ensuring that our future contains educated people who impact society in all of the ways listed above. No, a teacher is not going to strike it rich, but they are incredibly important for creating a healthy society. Medicine is another obvious area. We need doctors and nurses to be well educated so that they can do their jobs effectively. Why would we not fund the programs responsible for turning out the people who keep us healthy?
The less obvious programs are harder to justify to people who don’t already accept their worth, but they do, nonetheless, have worth. History is often thought to be useless. People will say “what can you do with a degree in history?” Well, let me see…um…I can run the country. Yes, that’s right. I can go into politics and eventually lead a party and become prime minister. Michael Ignatieff is a historian. In fact, our political leaders have had various types of degrees that are not funded: law, economics, political sciences, and general Bachelor of Arts degrees. The sciences are also underfunded. Science is important for many reasons: science gives us the technology we use to communicate more effectively and entertain ourselves, science gives us medicine and lets us lead longer lives, and science is how we know about the world we live in.
We need all of the various university programs for various different reasons. We do not live in a world where we can sustain our society and our people with just two career paths. We cannot hope to survive with just business people and engineers. We still need people to grow our food, and people to make sure that our land can keep producing said food. We need people who can build our houses, and people who can create sustainable equipment for building our houses with. We need people to create and administer our medicine. We need people to educate our children and ensure that our society will survive into the future. We need people to run our country and our provinces. We need people who will keep our culture alive and keep us for repeating the mistakes of the past. We need people to report on current events to keep us all connected, and we need people to keep our technology up to date and working. In short, we need diversity. We need people to go into all of the degree streams. And we need all of the university programs to be funded equally. We need money for building repairs, to pay professors, to get access to as much knowledge as possible to better educate the students, for needed educational technology, and for various other reasons.”
“Statistics Canada takes a closer look at those who don’t vote”: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/statistics-canada-takes-closer-look-those-don-t-182841085.html
“The many benefits of a higher education”: http://www.ashtoncollege.com/the-many-benefits-of-higher-education/
“Trends in Higher Education” : http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDQQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aucc.ca%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2011%2F05%2Ftrends-2011-vol1-enrolment-e.pdf&ei=QwLmUsjWMtTooATK-oCwDA&usg=AFQjCNFWjREM3-zt2i4CbBzZqii52qak5A&sig2=TFdxpeJ-mTarNT1FG-WBbQ&bvm=bv.59930103,d.cGU
“What difference does learning make to financial security”: http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=54