Everything is awesome – UPDATED

Few students in BC graduate from post-secondary schooling laden with debt, according to Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education in British Columbia. Wilkinson asserts there is no student debt problem. He claimed (wrongly):

70 per cent of students go through their higher education with no debt whatsoever.

From the minister’s vantage point, everything is awesome. Wilkinson, a guy with a west-side home worth 7-figures who has long enjoyed large 6-figure incomes, can afford to hang in spiffy places. Even so, when he moves around the province, taxpayers pay the bill for him and the entourage.

For his supposed brilliance, Wilkinson get facts wrong when he talks about student debt and he ignores the reality that high achieving students from poor families cannot afford post-secondary education. According to economist and researcher Iglika Ivanova:

In Western Canada, youth living in families with an annual income over $100,000 are still more than twice as likely to attend university than youth with family income under $25,000.

It is obvious that few members of the Arbutus Club are saddled with significant consumer debt. The near $100,000 needed to join and spend a year at the posh club is an effective barrier that keeps out the impecunious. Similarly, high cost, particularly for students who would follow long learning paths, keeps many capable students from advanced education. People without money must avoid that which they cannot afford.

The minister acknowledges that many students rely on family supports to cover school costs. That situation results in a large difference in participation rates among rich and poor. The Wall Street Journal reported:

College completion rates for wealthy students have soared in 40 years but barely budged for low-income students, leading to a yawning gap in educational attainment between rich and poor that could have long-lasting implications for the socioeconomic divide.

In 2013, 77% of adults from families in the top income quartile earned at least bachelor’s degrees by the time they turned 24, up from 40% in 1970, according to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. But 9% of people from the lowest income bracket did the same in 2013, up from 6% in 1970…

Statistics Canada publishes little on student debt but does report (Table 477-0069) that in 2010, 49% of people graduating with a Bachelor degree had an average of $30,000 in educational debt. Projecting trends provides an estimate for 2015:

Reporting on a publication by the Pew Charitable Trusts on Economic Mobility Across Generations, the Washington Post stated the paradox:

Being poor is a big impediment to getting the education that lifts you out of poverty.

You can be sure that Wilkinson and his Liberal colleagues know that education is fundamental to addressing income inequality. It’s just that they are comfortable with disparities that separate the rich from the rest of us.


On CBC, the doctor fails to spin


Sean Holman’s Unknowable Country, When Journalists Get Angry, March 2, 2015

…if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do…

Opacity is winning the war against transparency. And if Canadian journalists want to turn the tide, they must do more in the fight against that secrecy…

…journalists should let our audiences know when spin doctors don’t respond to our questions, provide non-answers or interfere with attempts to interview public officials.

…Last week, CBC Daybreak South succeeded in getting Andrew Wilkinson, the minister responsible for British Columbia’s spin doctors, to address complaints about the state of government communications (including my open letter).

Provincial flacks “initially declined” to respond to those complaints. But Wilkinson made an appearance on Daybreak South after the program tried contacting “each and every MLA” in its listening area about that issue.

You can listen to the interview for yourself on Soundcloud. But suffice it say Wilkinson, somewhat appropriately, appeared to have his own talking points for that conversation. So, just as appropriately, I’ve filed freedom of information requests to obtain them.

Categories: Education

18 replies »

  1. Seems to me that there is too much debt in general, globally.
    All that borrowing from the future can't be good.
    Starting your career with $40,000 debt is difficult.
    I ended up $7,700 in debt after university, which I quickly paid off, so I was lucky.


  2. ” Everything is awesome ” That's a great title Norm and from where I sit, it's the number one game for the Liberals. Scanning provincial news I see Liberal MLA's traveling a lot to spread some feel good messages. Christy Clark & her handlers are working overtime and will continue to do so in an effort to paint a positive spin on her & her team. From luncheons to announcements on future projects 6 to 7 years from now the Liberals are working hard to soften the blow of the occasional Quick Win stories or University that spends money on lobbyists.
    And that leaves the NDP picking up the negative stories. It seems the media is more interested in getting reaction from the opposition to create headlines as opposed to questioning the government. Some of the stories make the NDP look like the old NDP and unless it decides to tell the media that those questions are better answered by the government it will continue to label them the complainers without any new ideas. The NDP has to play the same game and start going to the people directly and not with criticism but with messages of hope. The party has to stop profiling the Eby's & Kwan's and put other members to work by doing what the Liberals are doing and that's campaigning because from where I sit…. that's all the Liberals are doing. Andrew Wilkinson ust got his numbers wrong.

    Guy in Victoria


  3. And now the BC gov't is empowering ICBC to withhold car insurance for students that aren't repaying student loans. That idiotic idea makes me wonder: how are students supposed to get to their part-time jobs–whose funds would surely give them the possibility of actually repaying a student loan?

    Yet another gem of an idea from B.C.'s Families First government.
    Yeah, sure!


  4. Wouldn’t it be fairer for the BC government to introduce legislation requiring students to retire their student loans at the same rate the BC government retires its debt?


  5. Alternatively, perhaps we could arrange for ICBC to prevent Christy Clark et al from renewing drivers' licenses, registrations and insurance if it turns out that provincial debt has grown after the Premier's post-budget announcement that it was being reduced by $1 billion, despite the Finance Ministry reporting that debt would grow another $10 billion.


  6. Norm, THOSE PEOPLE don't need driver's licenses. Their chauffeurs drive them everywhere.
    Or they could get an International Drivers Licence and out of country residence (China, India or wherever Chispy hangs her hat these days) and avoid the issue.


  7. This current “regime” is famous for “blowing sunshine”, and their propaganda machine will go to any length, to make sure that the “suckers”,( taxpayers), are informed, with only the information the “regime” wants them to hear or see.
    By creating this “Pollyanna” reality, they firmly believe that the general public can be coericed into the belief that all is good in “never never land”. Numbers and facts are blurred and downplayed, the true reality of the real situation, obscured and manipulated in order to preserve the so called “integrity” and “believability” of the BC Liberals, and their policies.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.
    This government needs to be removed as quickly as possible. This elaborate con game is going to indebt this province for generations, and reduce what's left of the middle class, to a broke group of taxpayers.


  8. Hugh, I too paid off my $1000 debt upon graduation. But that was in the 1960's.
    My son just completed three years of postgraduate study with a debt of $140,000 (room,board, tuition, books, transportation,etc). Yes, he could have prolonged the agony by taking 'summer jobs' but h


  9. I know a qualified young person who wanted to return to school for an MBA but, not having an employer or a family who would pay the over $50,000 cost, he had to pass. It is another example showing that equality of opportunity is a myth.


  10. Yep! and Enron's accounts are operating freely in BC as we type. They are now called Accenture and my understanding is they are based on the Bahamas (a tax haven?) with complicit Libs hiring them on long term well-paying contracts in places like BC Hydro and various government entities as well as Telus and other well known corporations. There used to be a saying “it's who you know” but that has changed as it appears there's a lot of money going from pocket to pocket.


  11. it's been suggested that outstanding debt carried by the big banks on behalf of homeowners who have failed to meet their 30 year contractual obligations will now have access to driver's licenses as a means to collect… just like Finance Minister de Jong is writing into ICBC… T/F


  12. This is not new, I have heard it several times, tuition fees are the price of access to a heavily subsidized education. With higher the fees, fewer students can afford to attend and there is less competition for the advantaged, but less talented.


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