Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Let's Not Go the Way the US Dept: Debt and Students and Massive Demonstrations

The New York Times lead editorial today is extremely pertinent as regional cyberspace swirls with analysis and pictures from yesterday's huge (and probably illegal) demonstration in Montreal.  "Full Disclosure for Student Borrowers" is the title, and it follows up on a story earlier about the enormous debt load many young people in the US have undertaken in trying to get a post-secondary degree: 

"Nationally, about two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients now borrow from either public or private lenders, up significantly from the early ’90s, when about 45 percent of graduates borrowed from all sources, including family. According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average debt for student borrowers last year was about $23,300, while 10 percent owed more than $54,000 and 3 percent owed more than $100,000. "

Bachelor degrees!  I remember when doctors would graduate with big debts, but they had every expectation of being able to pay them off pronto.  And, as I've said before, when I got my BA in English literature at UC Berkeley, I paid peanuts, earning more than half the money I needed in summer jobs with my parents topping up the rest rather easily.  No debt for me when I graduated, and when my husband got his Ph.D five years later, we had actually saved money. 

Post secondary tuition is lower in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, while the Canadian overall average is much lower than the US.  That is the way it should be.  Students here who are protesting are only channeling much disatisfaction with right wing ideas which are so prevalent among those in power now.  At the demonstration yesterday--150,000 to 250,000 present--I saw a lot of gray hair and babies in strollers, showing just how wide-spread discontent is.  The fact that the special law passed last week in (as they say here so deliciously) in catimini puts regulates strictly any call for demonstrations only made the turnout greater.

BTW  here's a good piece about what is going on from an Anglophone prof at the Université de Montréal: "An Open Letter to English-Canadians, who might be feeling that Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses."

Photo from Métro newspaper.

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