Can New Brunswick become a Celtic Tiger?

The Telegraph-Journal ran a story on Tuesday entitled Can New Brunswick become a Celtic Tiger? which has stirred up some strong feelings. The thrust of the article was related to eliminating tuition on post-secondary education. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Ireland often touts its 1996 decision to abolish undergraduate tuition at state-run universities as one of the keys to the country’s economic rebirth, transforming it into a European centre for high-tech industry with the nickname “Celtic Tiger’.

Alex Usher, vice-president of the Educational Policy Institute, an international, non-profit think-tank, is blunt.”Across-the-board tuition fee cuts or across the board tax cuts, in any jurisdiction, is a waste of money,” he says.

Free tuition is a stupid idea,” says Warren McKenzie, a UNB graduate and large donor to this province’s universities.”I honestly feel you should pay for your education,” he says, adding that some students already don’t alter their free-spending lifestyles enough when they are in school.”I don’t want to subsidize beer drinking,” he says.

Two quick points:

1) Free education may end up with more graduates – leaving the province faster. We still haven’t addressed the issue of actual jobs for these grads when they come out of school. Ireland’s Celtic Tiger status had more to do with the hundreds of billion in external business investment than with free education.

2) Who the bleep is Warren McKenzie? You give 10 bucks to UNB and then you can start firing around all these crazy comments like closing universities and subsidizing beer drinking? If these newspapers had any sense, they would not quote this guy anymore. He is not helping, folks…

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0 Responses to Can New Brunswick become a Celtic Tiger?

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s an odd article to be sure, why bring up the idea if all you do is trash it? The ‘beer drinking’ comment is truly so stupid that this guy really shouldn’t even get printspace. It gives the idea, frankly, that our universities, like everything else, is simply run by those who happened to get rich and now donate some money to it.

    The reality is that a post secondary education is simply not designed to pander to the workforce. People may think it SHOULD, but the reality is that ‘beer drinking’ is part of the youth culture. I drank like a fish, but I still got educated (sort of). In fact, if you look at the enormous taxes on alcohol vs the US (about ten times the price of american booze), its pretty clear that the big drinkers pretty much pay for their own education even if it WAS free.

    Of course the whole idea is laughable, since once again tuition is going up. NB has seen the highest increases in the country, we might as well debate making electricity free or dental visits free. Even in the seventies it wasn’t free, so how about just making it cheaper? How about just not having any more increases? How about halving tuition?

    You’ll notice those comments aren’t even raised, its one extreme or another, and that’s the chief complaint against the media. Media frames the debate, when they present issues as if it’s one extreme or another, it severely limits it. It’s intent, frankly, seems to be raising a ‘preposterous idea’ and dismissing it so that universities can keep raising tuition and ‘we’ve already had the discussion on it’.

    That is one of the most horribly written pieces I’ve come across, and by giving this guy comments like that, the media really shows its bias. How about talking to some students? How about talking about scandinavia where tuition is far, far cheaper, or even the US where it is generally cheaper, more people per capita attend, and where there are far more grants available even at schools where it is expensive.

    One statistic worth looking at would be the number of graduates who START businesses. Most of those come from university graduates, the universities are where research is done, more importantly, its where money is looking for investments. Conferences are the primary place where new innovations are sought out, more of that is not a bad thing.

    You are right about the investment part, I’ll say it again, Ireland became a ‘celtic tiger’ because it was MADE that by the european union. It was given permission to cancel out royalty fees and patent royalties. If you combine THAT with free university you’ve got something altogether different. Imagine being a new graduate with no loans to repay, and living in a province where if you write a book you pay no tax on specific levels of profit. Or if you do research there is no tax on your innovations, just your labour.

    And remember, the EU is now cutting out those benefits, and europe has a VERY highly mobile labour base. So one day up, doesn’t mean anything about the next day (though its a hell of a lot better odds).

    Oh, yeah, recently I discovered another country with free post secondary university-Ethiopia. When a third world country can do what you can’t, that doesn’t make you look very successful. Although as said, if students graduated with good jobs, they wouldn’t mind payiing money back.

    The other thing is that NB has both a very high rate of illiteracy and the low prospects that go with it and high unemployment, as well as the fact that the OECD claims knowledge workers are essential. When you are poor and cannot afford education, you are pretty well screwed. So what about ‘free education’ for the poor? What about requiring ‘free’ university courses for those on welfare and unemployment? Most courses can be done online for pete’s sake, but what single mom can afford the almost $500 bucks per half credit course.

    This issue has so many possibilities and issues that the comment ‘free tuition’+ ‘nope, dumb’, is almost criminal in a monopoly run media.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Every now and then we hear media reports about the “poor me” student complaining about huge student debt. Well alot of that debt is living expenses not tuition.

    Even if NB went ot the EXTREME and eliminated tuition…you cannot say students would be graduating debt free.

  3. Anonymous says:

    When tuition is $5000 that’s not remotely true. A welfare recipient lives off $6000 a year, that’s almost as much tuition as living expenses.

    However, the ‘poor me’ issue comes partly from the above, and concerns jobs. As this blog frequently attests, this province is losing population, more worriedly, it is losing young populations at their prime working years.

    That’s 20 grand for an undergrad degree. That’s one fifth the price of a home. That’s money that could be invested in a small business or a consultantcy.

    It’s almost a year longer that an unemployed student can look for a job.

    Most importantly, with those odds, there would be more ‘poor me’ students instead of people who will simply accept the inevitable low wage paying jobs. In other words, it’s good for the society, that’s why we had public education in the first place.

  4. David Campbell says:

    I’m not the best one to talk to about this. I had 25 grand debt and spent 11 years paying it down. But….

    I am looking for bold initiatives, anything that shows signs of life coming out of Fredericton.

  5. Simon says:

    much of the reasons investment came to Ireland is because the high number of graduates. Corporation tax is not everything you know for a company. I could go into the nouances of the celtic tiger. Such as German stagnant growth( as big a factor as anything in recent years but I wounldn’t