Means-test the rich, or another argument for eliminating tuition

Here’s an oversimplified choice for how to fund post-secondary education. Imagine you have two options for dealing with how people pay for post-secondary education:

  1. Universal free tuition, means-testing to see if you are rich enough to pay
  2. Universal tuition fees, means-testing to see if you are poor enough to not pay

Either of these can be brought into being in many ways. At base, however, these are two roughly symmetrical ways of achieving the same thing. Right now in Canada, we have a version of (2): tuition and a complex system of need-based grants and scholarships, student loans and tax rebates largely available if you prove yourself poor enough to deserve them. The thought of (1) instead occurred to reading Dr. Dawg’s excellent reply to the pro-tuition argument. Dawg, however, ends by saying that “[post-secondary education] should not be means-tested, any more than medicare or our highway system should be.” But why not means-test those who can afford to pay for higher education in a society as unequal as ours and where the benefits from education are so unequally distributed?

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