OUR VIEW: Free education comes at a price

We say: Students will have to contribute in some way

Free cradle-to-grave public education would be a great idea if we could afford it.

Education is expensive and, in some cases, students should be expected to pay for it. No one would quibble about the benefits of free public K-to-12 education and post-secondary school should be subsidized to guarantee a well-educated and skilled work force.

But there may be times when free tuition doesn’t accomplish the goals set out by the citizens who have to pay for it and, after experimenting with the Education Guarantee, the B.C. government has figured this out.

After four years of providing free tuition to graduated adults seeking to upgrade their high school education, the province is now whittling down the number of courses it will offer at no charge. More specifically, the province has determined that it will only pay for literacy, math and competency courses for students learning English as a second language and English 12, Biology 12, Math 11 and 12, Chemistry 11 and Physics 11.

The idea is that these are the courses that are most sought after by students seeking to upgrade their education. Students who wish to take history, law or accounting, which could be seen more as electives than core academics, will now have to pay for them.

The province has also moved to withhold partial funding unless courses are completed, and while we don’t know all the details — and there could be some costly fine print for school districts unless attention is paid to this issue — the principle is sound. Taxpayers should only pay for courses that people sign up for and complete.

Adding English 11, Communications 11 and 12, Physics 12, and Chemistry 12 to the list of free core courses is also a good idea because they, too, are needed for university or college. But until educators are prepared to work for free, students will have to contribute in some way to their own education.

— Black Press