A recent Toronto Star article is highlighting the efforts of two provincial student groups to make post-secondary education in Ontario more affordable and attainable.

But not everyone is happy about it.

The Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (OUSA) and The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O) are calling on the provincial government to impose a tuition freeze, beginning in 2017. Although the organizations are working from two separate campaigns, both groups say fees in Ontario have increased drastically and now place a significant portion of schools’ operating costs on students.

The CFS-O also wants Queen’s Park to cut tuition fees by 50 per cent over the next few years.

Entitlement obsessed students

Just 10 hours after the Star article had been posted to its Facebook Page, it had received over 1,000 likes and 200 shares. Yet despite the positive comments left by many readers in support of the organizations’ efforts, they seemed to be overshadowed by several readers’ negative (and often offensive) responses.

“I would like to know how much money these students waste on booze, eating out, rent when they could live at home, having the latest device, etc.,” wrote one man. “Also, work more than one day a week.”

“To all the entitlement obsessed students who imagine they should be given a heavily subsidized university education at the taxpayer’s expense, think again,” wrote another woman. “If you cannot afford a university education, consider going to trades school or community college and get a trade or ‘in demand’ skill instead of a masters degree in irrelevancy.”

As a recent and unemployed graduate with a mountain of student debt looming over me (I’m reluctant to share the exact figure), these are the very comments that anger me. The widespread belief among many older Canadians that my generation, the Millennials, are weak, lazy and entitled is not only offensive but more importantly, furthest from the truth.

From high school, we work hard to secure the best grades in order to get into the best programs at the best possible schools. For many of us, we have dreams- big dreams. Among us there is a scientist who wants to cure cancer, a doctor who wants to save lives and a politician who wants to make a difference in their community. Not only are these dreams attainable, but often times, they’re also greater than the education that can be received at a local community college.

“Hard work doesn’t pay off like it did in the past. The major costs of living are skyrocketing while our income is declining. And housing is at the centre of a dramatic deterioration of the standard of living in younger Canadians.” -Paul Kershaw, UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

In what world do we reprimand someone for pursuing their dream, purely because it is beyond their financial means? When did this country adopt such an elitist system?

We are not lazy. Despite the odds stacked against us, we still strive to do better than our parents. Despite wages for today’s young people being nine per cent lower than they were 40 years ago, and the fact it will now take the average Torontonian 15 years to save for a home rather than five, Millennials continue dutifully in their struggle to make ends meet. With many students working at least one job in order to cover the cost of tuition, it’s not uncommon to find students who work several jobs at a time.

Most importantly, we are not entitled. With a single year of tuition in Ontario costing over $7,000, the average Ontarian will spend at least $28,000 on an undergraduate degree. But with ancillary fees from textbook purchases, transportation, parking and even fees for convocation, tuition costs are often much higher.

After breaking our backs (and our banks) to pay these costs, we finally graduate only to be left jobless or working a minimum wage job.

Is it too much to expect our government to create opportunities that will allow us to apply our hard-earned education and degrees?

Dreaming big despite the odds

Many Generation X’ers will likely blame our high unemployment rates (which is currently around 13 per cent across Canada) on a poor choice of degree. With a demand for STEM workers (science, technology, engineering and math), Millennials are often encouraged to pursue a post-secondary education in those fields.

The fact is we can’t all be engineers and scientists- and quite frankly, we shouldn’t have to be. While students entering college and university should undoubtedly give careful consideration to their program of study, no one should be forced to pursue a career in a field in which they have no skill or talent.

I’m often told by Generation X’ers what a poor choice they believe my decision to pursue a journalism degree was. Some have even gone as far as to scoff at my choice and insinuate that my unemployment is somehow a direct result of that decision.

But even in my state of joblessness, I remain focused on my dreams.

To the Generation X’ers reading this, I want to personally tell you I’m not weak or lazy. After having several doors slammed in my face since graduation, I began to outline a clear set of steps I would take in order to get me closer to my dream. This blog was the first step and if you’re reading this, just know you’ve reaffirmed my determination to reach my goal.

Yes, I know. This entire post likely sounded entitled to some of you. But where you read “entitled,” I read “angry.” I’m angered by the lack of opportunities my government has made for my generation and furthermore, frustrated by its failure to prioritize the issue of youth unemployment.

So no, I’m not entitled- I’m fed up. There’s a difference.

But that’s just According to Adrienne.

1 Comment

  1. Well written Adrienne.
    Before some of these people choose to criticize those of us who are seeking a freeze on tuition, maybe they should look at their neighbours to the east. Students in Quebec would never allow their tuition to climb so high.

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