This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.
Now that my wife and I have both returned to school, each working on a Masters of Education, we’re paying tuition again. At the University of Calgary, tuition costs around $1200 per course. I question whether or not it would be the same cost for undergraduate courses (and suspect it isn’t), but that’s the amount we’re paying. This summer, we’re paying $2500 each, and we have also paid for daycamps for our children at a cost of another $1800. This summer, the total cost to us of progressing in our education is around $6800.
I occasionally read in the newspaper that students are complaining that the cost of education is too high. They lobby the government to freeze tuition and they argue that their education benefits all of society. So I thought back to my days as a student at Laval University in Quebec City. At the time, I paid around $1500 per semester (or $300 per course) during my undergraduate degree. That doesn’t really seem like a hardship. When I hear that student in Quebec are rioting over the cost of education, I feel very little sympathy.
Before living in Quebec, I lived for a while in France and I soon learned that post-secondary education is free. There is no tuition, but there is a cost for books and housing. There is also the side-effect that universities are often overcrowded. I wonder how common it is for a country to offer free post-secondary education? In my current course, there are women who moved to Canada a long time ago from Cuba and Venezuela. They each told me that their country offers free post-secondary education. So are we paying too much?
The tricky part of that question is the underlying assumption: are we paying too much in relation to what? At the University of Calgary, we pay more for tuition than students in Quebec, in Europe and in some Latin American countries. Closer to home, however, I have a different frame of reference. As a student, I had very little money, so $3000 a year was a big part of my budget. By comparison, $10,000 this year (for the two of us) is a smaller portion of our budget. We also have a very specific personal (family) goal that this education moves us toward. From our current vantage point, the cost of our education is worthwhile to us.
Is/was the cost of your education worthwhile to you? Do you see it as a cost, as an investment or as a necessary evil?