Cape Breton University calls for free post-secondary education
Published Thursday, March 5, 2015 6:11PM AST
Last Updated Friday, March 6, 2015 7:39AM AST
Cape Breton University is leading the charge in a new call for free post-secondary tuition in Canada.
The university's president, David Wheeler, says free tuition has to be funded by federal tax dollars and he's asking his colleagues across the country to make it an election issue.
“Higher education in Canada lacks a long-term strategy and that's dangerous for the country,” says Wheeler.
When asked what they think of abolishing university tuition, many students say they'd love to see it happen, they're just not sure it will.
“I think it would be more likely to lower the tuition a little bit than go completely free, but either way it would be great if anything happens at all,” says student Mikayla Ayre.
“Free tuition is definitely a nice thing to put forward and it's worked before in other countries,” says student Colin Lewis.
Many countries around the world already offer free post-secondary education, but Wheeler says there's no model in place elsewhere that he thinks could work in Canada.
“We have to have a made-in-Canada solution because we are a federal country,” says Wheeler.
CBU has written an open letter to the federal political parties, proposing a progressive taxation model for free tuition. The group anticipates some resistance to the idea.
“In the 1940s and 50s people would have made the same arguments about universal healthcare,” says Wheeler.
According to the letter, annual tuition costs in Canada total $6 billion. By comparison, the most recent GST cuts cost the federal government $12 billion per year in lost tax revenue.
“This is a relatively small amount of money for a rich country like Canada. It's all about choice,” says Wheeler.
Brandon Ellis is a member of the university’s student union. He believes the short-term costs could have a beneficial long-term effect.
“If we're continuing to educate people, whether it be through the arts, or through business or sciences, we'll have a more educated population and that could very well stimulate the economy,” says Ellis.
CBU is now trying to rally support from universities across the country.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie