Last week thousands of British students descended on London’s Conservative Party headquarters to protest drastic increases in tuition fees. Despite protestations from Liberal-Democrat leader Nick Clegg, the changing fee structure will make education much more costly—potentially three times more costly—for all students. Proponents of the fee hikes trotted out the usual lines about parental support, reasonable payment schedules and personal responsibility, but the images of tens of thousands of students smashing windows, occupying buildings and throwing documents and chairs from the roof of an office tower demonstrated to the world that many students—the ones who will actually have to deal with the changing funding regime—disagree emphatically.
A recently released Quebec study lends support to the protesters’ position and, for the umpteenth time, demonstrates how tired and fallacious the rationales for fee hikes are. The kids, it turns out, are not all right.
The situation in Quebec, to be sure, is different from the one in England—but not so different. Students in each place are being asked to take on more debt, work harder and longer hours, spend more on housing and less on things like food, books, and entertainment. And all in an economy that cannot promise a decent wage, job security or benefits at the end of it all. I, for one, doubt that the most recent occupation will be the last.