Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

SFU tuition-free education for seniors may be in jeopardy

with 8 comments


This is a purely personal and self interested appeal. I am 59 and I attend as many free SFU public lectures as I can manage. I have a very limited income, but I can manage that too. But I was utterly appalled to read

For more than 30 years, Simon Fraser University has been offering tuition-free full-credit courses to anyone over the age of 60.

The program — which attracts about 60 students per year — has been a source of pride for the school, and has been growing each year. Despite its popularity, however, the full-credit seniors’ program is in jeopardy.

SFU financial vice-president Pat Hibbitts told The Vancouver Sun that SFU’s board of governors is considering a proposal to cut the program to help make up for an unexpected $6.3-million shortfall for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

My late mother was the founder and Secretary of the Worker’s Education Association branch in Loughton, Essex. Literally up until her last breath at the age of 84 she was actively promoting adult education, and given the demography of where she lived ,that was mostly directed to people over 60. There is no argument that education never ceases – and keeping the brain active is the best strategy for holding on to your marbles. Despite many peer reviewed studies that demonstrate the value of educating old people her last twenty years were a continual battle with the authorities to keep her program going – and not for lack of customers!

I have a Bachelors and a Masters degree, and do not actually need academic credits for anything. My mother actually accumulated more than enough credits for more than one degree – but never wanted one. “I only read for pleasure” she said, in typical understatement. Her interests included English Literature, Archaeology, Classics, History – especially Economic and Social History, Anthropology and she “dabbled” in a wide range of other fields too – setting up new courses every year to meet demand and usually went to the classes – just because she could.

I have no idea at all what can be done about this situation, but one thing I think I can bet is that the BC Liberal Government in Victoria will not give a stuff about this – unless they are forced to. It is typical short term, compartmentalised thinking. The benefits of education go far beyond getting people into employment, but so far as I can recall that is about the only thing I have heard from this government. Quality of life means nothing to them since it does not appear anywhere on anyone’s balance sheet. And it has been apparent for years that shifting emphasis away from road building and car orientation would have major health benefits as more people walk and cycle. Exactly the same argument applies to adult education – it will reduce the escalating costs of caring for an ageing population . But that does not get reckoned into the “need” to cut university funding , in a province which has been running large surpluses for years and has no need to cut spending, other than a political preference for a dogma that regards all public spending other than law enforcement and prisons as “wasteful”.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 11, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in personal thoughts

Tagged with

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This isn’t going to save SFU any money, nor do I think charging tuition to seniors is likely to generate any revenue.

    Tuition-exempt students can only attend (as far as I understand) if there are vacant seats in the class. I can’t see how having someone fill an empty seat is a cost. And I suspect that most of the seniors taking advantage of this option wouldn’t bother coming if they had to pay.

    Of course, the last sentence there risks feeding into the “moral hazard” argument of conservatives. Honestly, I fail to see how it’s a hazard for people to get an education or continue learning. Maybe the used car salesmen who run this show should try their hand at learning.

    Paul Holden

    April 11, 2008 at 9:35 am

  2. What I don’t get is that the government presented the cut as a minor tweak, yet were pushing the creation of new post secondary institutions for several years (UNBC being the big one) in the reality of budget surpluses. Why cut at all?

    Germany has provided no-tuition post secondary education for decades perceiving it as an investment that will have great returns. Well, they’ve held the number three economic performance spot in the world for a long time, all while maintaining high standards. My guess is their education policies played an important role in that. Come to think of it, an old Polish aquaintence of mine got a “free” architecture degree in Germany in the 70s, so even non-German citizens have benefited.

    Most classes see a significant drop-out in the initial two weeks as students switch electives and even majors. Perhaps there is accommodation for seniors ro audit courses as seats become available.


    April 11, 2008 at 10:04 am

  3. they were cut 2.6% –and were given no notice! but like meredith says -why cut with a surplus! welcome to the land of make-believe what surplus! the 4 billion first off 1.3 billion of the surplus went towards LAST YEARS BUDGET ( in what they call a suplimentary budget ) that brings us down to 2.7 billion —-700 million went to oil and gas subsidies and subsidies to the banks – now were down to 2billion——500million is going to (carbon tax bribe ) now we are down to 1.5 billion– 100million to bcgeu law suit settlement—200million for artsy tartsy stuff—and the little dribble of surplus left is going to all the new ministries in goverment——greenhouse gas secreteriate–cap and trade ministry—port mann twinning ministry—-climate action committee—and the rest has been scooped for olympic spending- so I say what surplus—what evergreen line money—what bus money—-what security money for olympics-1.7billion! —-the cupboard is bare signed…………………………………………………arther anderson accounting

    grant g

    April 11, 2008 at 6:18 pm

  4. I’m glad someone has mentioned this at last, thank you! Capilano College has senior’s discounts, for most credit courses I believe, but now are removing it for 60 to 64 year olds. I too am appalled at both the provincial government cutbacks and the administrators of educational institutions small-minded cuts at the bottom, while they give themselves fat raises as rewards. I know of many who have looked forward to going back to school in their early retirement, only to find that they cannot afford it on a fixed income.

    Meredith’s comment about German no-tuition post secondary education is also true for Finland, which ranks in the top for their education and their economy, and it’s smaller than BC.


    April 13, 2008 at 9:28 pm

  5. […] did just a tiny bit of background research and found in april, stephen rees already warned this might be a problem (but who listens to a blogger?). distastefully, the non-credit SFU seniors program says nothing […]

  6. I’m still trying to find free ed for seniors is there any online? I’m in south central KY and I’m interested in math and physics although I had two years of college in business admin I hated it then and I hate it now. I’d like to learn things I love since I’m retired on disability. Can you direct me?

    Mary Gordon

    February 11, 2009 at 8:07 am

  7. Sorry, I have no idea. But I would have thought a Google search might be a good place to start

    Stephen Rees

    February 11, 2009 at 9:32 am

  8. Sungsu

    February 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: