Photo and edits: Marta Kierkus
In early October, Lower Saxony became the last state in Germany to completely eliminate university tuition, making free post-secondary education a nationwide standard. Besides the fact that their government charges higher taxes, this is made possible because German schools don’t commit a lot of money towards paying for extra amenities like academic support, sports teams, student-run clubs, and bars, and all the individual cultural elements that usually go towards building a unique student community on campus. Should we sacrifice our collective student culture to fight the rising cost of tuition here in Canada, or do these cultural elements represent what university life is all about?
Students should seek knowledge, not superficial amenities
Many arguments in favour of Canada’s current university funding system point to the great amenities, extracurricular programs, and educational services that are the backbone of student life on campus. These vast, shining institutions are believed to enhance educational environments and are often used in promotional ads to attract new prospective students.
But even without the tuition Canadian pay, in terms of government expenditures countries like Germany still pay less per student than Canada. So where does all the money go that you spend on education?
Simply put, you’re paying for frills.
Each university campus is a self-contained entity with housing, prepared food, gyms, student spaces, bars, and sports facilities. The same amenities are found throughout a city, so why do universities duplicate what already exists?
It’s because academic universities have become giant adult daycares, preoccupied with coddling young adults who are too afraid to find their own place to live or cook for themselves. They are essentially asking you to pay large sums of money so you can extend your adolescent state of dependence.
Grow the fuck up.
Germany provides students with free education and an opportunity to become proper adults. Their do-it-yourself academic structure can be demanding, but it’s definitely worth the effort. This is especially true since this kind of schooling gives students an opportunity to start their adult lives without debt and without the necessity of suckling at their parents’ money teat.
In an op-ed piece for Le Monde, French philosophy professor Emmanuel Jaffelin warned the world against the “Harvardization” of education, where education is gradually being transformed into a product you buy as opposed to a right provided by the state. It’s no wonder things have gotten out of control. People expect all manner of things from the school they attend and those schools, in turn, pander to students with easy grading, watered-down feedback, and superficial amenities. And after all that, students are still graduating without the skills needed for the workplace.
As a result, more and more people are coming out of university asking themselves why they bothered to attend in the first place. Coupled with the fact that fees will continue to rise (expected to be $7,437 per year by 2016–17), university life in Canada is looking pretty bleak.
If the university experience is about anything, it should be about the pursuit of knowledge, not extra-curricular nonsense.
Student groups and clubs provide a great learning experience
The main issue at the forefront of policy debate across Canadian universities is the cost of tuition. This dollar figure rises almost every year, and students are also hit with extra student fees.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, student association and athletic fees on Canadian campuses have risen to an average of $817 per year. At the University of Ottawa, these extra fees range from $683.50 to $ 684.50 for arts and science students to as high as $716.50 to $884.50 for engineering and management students.
Universities could abolish these incidental fees to lower tuition. But they shouldn’t.
Although this may seem like a sound strategy at first, it will come at a great cost. There are benefits to providing student clubs, sports teams, and general extracurricular activities that extend beyond the boundaries of typical university life.
When a domestic or international student applies to a Canadian university, there are two separate sets of information the admissions committee evaluates: the student’s academic preparedness, and the student’s strength of character and personality. Academic preparedness can only be gauged by marks, but the student’s participation in clubs and other extra-curricular activities reveal the type of person they truly are.
A growing number of employers are now beginning to recruit potential candidates through assessing their involvement in campus activities. According to an article in the Huffington Post, employers are actively seeking candidates who possess what are called “higher executive functions,” such as time management, communication, critical thinking, and teamwork. Outside of schoolwork, one of the best ways a student can develop these skills is through participating in campus life.
When students need to balance school assignments with intramural sports, clubs, and participation in student government, they learn how to stay organized, meet deadlines, and to economically shift focus to different tasks, all of which contribute to the development of higher executive functions.
It also enhances a student’s psychological and emotional well-being. A 2008 study conducted at Ohio University concluded that students who participated in extracurricular activities felt more connected to their campus, had more friends and better grades, adjusted more easily to campus life, and were less likely to drop out.
Although students can participate in these experiences elsewhere, on-campus activities give students a sense of community that can’t be matched anywhere else.
A good education goes deeper than lectures, tests, and assignments. A well-rounded university experience that includes hard learning and extracurricular gains will offer the best education that money can buy.