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
ADDENDUM TO ABOVE INFORMATION PUBLISHED FEB 27/15:
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.