The THES urged the British government to "up fees for the rich and help the poor" (Leader, THES , February 1). This is very different from upping fees for the rich to help the poor. Governments, however, tend to conflate the two policies when raising tuition fees to offset public subsidies to higher education.
When fees for the rich were raised in Ontario, 30 per cent of each extra tuition fee dollar was directed to needs-based financial aid. There was no extra funding for bursaries.
The scheme was irrational and unfair. The government and the universities have ended up placing the burden of financial aid on students. For students without financial need, the 30 cents brings no benefits, such as smaller classes or better resources. Instead, it goes to other students.
Higher fees make more students cross the line from having no financial need to having need. Students are paying at worst an involuntary poll tax, at best making a charitable contribution. It is not need-tested. The wealthy are largely unaffected, the middle class is squeezed, and the poor may or may not benefit.
The final sentence of the editorial should have read: "And the government should not get the two mixed up."
Daniel W. Lang
Professor of higher education and management
University of Toronto