July 14, 2012

Education shouldn`t be a debt sentence!

Rebel Youth presents this commentary by a student activist and member of the YCL Ontario Provincial Committee as the nine-city tour of Quebec student activists creates a splash of debate about student tactics. Pictured above, Marianne Breton Fontaine the editor of our sister publication in Quebec, speaks with Gabriel Nadeau Dubois in Ottawa to a packed crowd. 

As curriculums are standardized to fit the corporate agenda, classroom sizes swell and schools make plans to compress four year degrees to three. The push towards online education means students will not be exposed to the intellectually stimulating campus environment. In Canada and around the world we are seeing a new kind of education system where we pay more and learn less:

fees in Ontario are 23 higher than the national average
college tuition has outstripped inflation by 378%
university tuition has outstripped inflation by 509%
students graduate with an average debt of $37,000

Meanwhile, our massive debt renders us complacent as we scramble to find work  and pay our bills in an economic crisis. In place of a decent education, we are being trained to accept a life of debt and unemployment.

The grant promised to students in the last election is woefully inadequate. Two-thirds of students aren't eligible. This includes students who do not go directly from high school to post-secondary, graduate students, international students, part-time students and students in second-entry programs.

We are told by our government there is not enough money to pay for "luxuries" like education and that we must tighten our belts. We as students must question the narrative of austerity-- if there's billions of dollars that can be spent on corporate tax breaks and fighter jets, why is there no money to spend on education?

We must see what the government cuts to education really are - an ideological war being waged against students in tandem with attacks on working people, the unemployed and oppressed peoples.

We as students know our struggle is part of a larger struggle. We have seen a sharp increase in cuts affecting healthcare and education at all levels, workers legislated back to work, cuts to important services, the unfettered development of natural resources and destruction of the environment. We intend to
resist the policies of a government  more interested in generating profit than the well-being of its people.

We take up the call of free, accessible education to challenge the economic imperative that informs the policies of our governments.

The neoliberal agenda is being implemented internationally, therefore we must also think in international terms. The same struggle is being waged by students in Chile, Germany, England and Spain. Across the globe, students are fighting back!

Students across Ontario are facing a dangerous challenge to the right to accessible, quality, public post-secondary education. We have seen renewed and intensifying attempts towards massive increases in tuition and ancillary fees, underfunding at the provincial and federal level, and the privatization and corporatization of our campuses.

Students across Ontario are also suffering high youth unemployment, low  wages and an escalating costs of living. Indigenous peoples, women, people from racialized communities face growing barriers to post-secondary education. International students are also being exploited as ‘cash-cows’ by the university administrations.

The current situation amounts to an aggressive and unprecedented attack on accessible education that has been accelerated by the global economic crisis.


Hundreds of thousands of students in Québec have mobilized over the last year, despite harsh police repression, by using the strongest tactic to put pressure on the government– a student strike – and in doing so, have shown that a broad, mass, united struggle is by far more the most effective strategy.

A key part of the escalating mobilization Québec has been campus "mobilization committees" which operate under the direction of General Assemblies and student unions, but are made up of the grassroots membership and focus on further mobilization of the general student body.

Mass mobilization and cooperation between students and other movements, especially labour, is the only way we can effectively defeat corporate and government attacks on education.


  • Agitate -- support and attend General Assemblies
  • Show solidarity-- wear a red square!
  • Get vocal-- demand free, accessible education!
  • Get involved -- work with your local mobilization committee

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