N.B. universities are least affordable

Fellow blogger, the Sorry Centrist, brought this story to my attention a few days ago. He must also have a mole over at the T&T as it has shown up this morning.

New Brunswick is at the bottom of the list when it comes to the affordability of university degrees in North America, according to a new study.The report, published by the Educational Policy Institute, suggests New Brunswick ranks 57th out of the 50 states and 10 provinces.

The report takes into account tuition fees, loans and scholarships, tax exemptions and the median household incomes in each area.

Jody Carr, minister of post-secondary education and training, said he’s not happy that New Brunswick is at the bottom of the list.

However, he said the report is relying on information from several years ago and the province has since introduced several measures to help make university more affordable.

“We have to take the report seriously, they provided some insight,” he said.I don’t think this is the end-all or be-all.” Tuition fees in the province are about $6,000, but the cost of living for a student can reach about $11,000.

A couple of observations about this report. First, I have not seen a study such as this that adjusted costs based on ability to pay – coined ATP.

Secondy, Jody Carr’s response is exactly the point of a previous blog that I posted. If Jody Carr was in opposition, this would shameful but because he is in government it is not the ‘end-all or be-all’. Carr would have much more credibility if he said that this is a fact and that government has decided to invest more money in health care than post secondary education. He might lose votes but he would gain credibility. Ultimately, the government has a pot of money to spend – around $6 billion this year. They have limited wiggle room – about $5 to $5.5 billion of that would be very hard to change without some serious ramifications. The rest they can play with and this year they decided to avoid the hammer of massive NB Power increases by removing the HST. Giving middle and upper class NBers a tax break may not be the best policy but I guess they figure it will garner votes.

They sprinkled around other goodies from that ‘wiggle room’ – like another mini tax cut for small businesses – I just hope there are a few left to take advantage – there are 8% less today than in 2000.

Ultimately, I think we need to invest every spare dime in economic development. That’s the only investment that will generate more tax dollars to pay for the government services we want.

As for education, you’re talking to a guy who spent 11 years paying off his student loans. I like the idea of trying to reduce these costs and stimulate more post-secondary education. But when I look at the migration data for New Brunswick – it’s clear that the more educated a person is the more likely they are to leave NB (on average) so in some absurd way maybe we should limit post secondary education – as a sick twist on labour market retention.

Alternatively, we would try and have jobs here for those kids when they graduate.