On May 6th, 2021, The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) issued a media release stating that they are standing in solidarity with the students against the recommendation in the Public Post-Secondary Education Review to increase tuition fees.
NLFL President Mary Shortall raises concerns about the importance of post-secondary education in securing adequate employment in today’s economy. She states that now is the time to improve accessibility to post-secondary education (PSE) to help combat the province’s rising unemployment rate and demographic challenges. Shortall says that now is not the time to increase the costs of PSE.
“We need to make sure that everyone, no matter their background or economic status, is able to obtain the best education possible.”Mary Shortall
Shortall states that “To achieve economic growth, our Province will not only require an educated and skilled workforce, it will also require an immigration policy that attracts smart, young people, to Newfoundland & Labrador (NL).” She then says that the best way to achieve this is a PSE system that is affordable. Furthermore, Shortall states, “…We need to make sure that everyone, no matter their background or economic status, is able to obtain the best education possible.”
The NLFL raises the point that post-secondary education is increasingly understood to be a prerequisite to gaining meaningful employment across the world. They bring up a recent speech given during a joint session of Congress where USA President Joe Biden announced his plan for free college. They then point to a statement that was in Biden’s campaign platform: “In today’s increasingly globalized and technology-driven economy, 12 years of education is no longer enough for American workers to remain competitive and earn a middle-class income. Roughly 6 in 10 jobs require some education beyond a high school diploma.”
“By lowering the debt burden placed on students, we are creating more consumption to support local business and investing in the future well-being of our province.”Mary Shortall
The NLFL states that their president Mary Shortall believes that the same arguments can apply to NL all of Canada. They point to Biden’s solution to funding his education plan as an example to follow. Biden stated that he would require wealthy Americans and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. The NLFL says that “Canada could have instituted a wealth tax to help pay for free college in Canada. Sadly – no such plan exists.”
The NLFL then points to Western Europe and elsewhere, where many countries are moving to reduce or eliminate post-secondary tuition altogether. They then provide an example “Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela have all recognized the importance of providing no-cost access to PSE.”
Shortall concludes with the statement, “Instead of discussions on student fee increases, let’s discuss how best to lower and eventually eliminate these fees… By lowering the debt burden placed on students, we are creating more consumption to support local business and investing in the future well-being of our province – good for students, good for communities and good for the economy.”
Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.