Douglas P. Welbanks: Mutant luxury logic raises its head in opposition to making Canada a tuition-free country

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      By Douglas P. Welbanks

      The author of a recent Postmedia article, which proclaimed that the federal NDP's policy to be flawed, has obviously never been unemployed with a $25,000 student-loan debt.

      The argument that the wealthy get a free ride under these circumstances ignores that the wealthy pay taxes (perhaps not their fair share due to flawed tax laws). The author also misses how universal health care works, how universal public schools work, and the current student loan debt crisis.

      Student loans were introduced in the 1960s to provide access to university and colleges for middle- and lower-income families because only the wealthy could afford to attend before then.

      Since then, not only have universities and colleges hosted large populations of students from middle- and lower-income families, so too has the marketplace upped its demands for university degrees and college diplomas for employment.

      These requirements have contributed to a spiralling student-loan debt crisis that forces young people (the poor) to attend postsecondary institutions even when they cannot afford it because they need employment.

      According to the Canadian Federation of Students, as of 2012 the student-loan debt in Canada totaled $28 billion. (More information is available here.) 

      In 1997-98, the federal government created a social class of disenfranchised student-loan debtors by prohibiting a bankruptcy discharge for 10 years after ceasing to be a student.

      Unlike the access that all other insolvent debtors had to a bankruptcy discharge for impossible debt problems, bankrupt student-loan debtors who were not a party to fraudulent or vexatious misconduct were barred from getting a second chance like everyone else.

      This draconian measure (an act of Parliament) continues in 2018 although it's been reduced from 10 to seven years.

      Perhaps a universal system for discharging bankrupt student loan debtors should join the social justice cry for tuition-free postsecondary education.

      Many countries embrace universal no-fees for postsecondary students, including France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, and Germany. It is not just a handful of youthful protesters who seek a fair and affordable way to find employment and get started in life making the argument.

      Finally, the Vancouver Sun article relies heavily on a Canadian economist to mock and question those who seek an end to tuition fees for Canadians.

      This brings up one of my favourite quotes from economist Edgar R. Fiedler: “Ask five economists and you'll get five different answers—six if one went to Harvard."

      Douglas P. Welbanks is a former director of debtor assistance and debt collection for the B.C. government and the author of several books, including Unbreakable: The Ujjal Dosanjh Story and Julius Seizure: The Secret World of Bankruptcy, Debt Collection and Student Loans.