Jun. 13th, 2011

idiothole: (kick. ass. die. young.)
An economics professor in Finland is proposing the government change the higher education so that graduates would have to pay a tax after graduation to make things more "equal". The argument goes, those who do not get higher education still have to pay the taxes to pay for other people's free higher education. Supposedly people who have university or polytechnic degrees bring in more €€€ than those who don't, gaining an unfair advantage.

A couple of things..

1) You could have argued this back in the day when it was true that academic degrees guaranteed a well-paying job. Nowadays it simply isn't true. A plumber might get paid more than somebody with a Literature PhD. Should the plumber pay more taxes because of this? No, of course not. That's already done through progressive taxation (which we can hopefully keep around).

2) There is no equality in charging for higher education, which would only further deter the people from less-privileged backgrounds from entering higher education. Yes, there is a culture of "education heritage", ie. kids of well-educated parents going into higher education themselves. But the way to get rid of this is not taxing graduates or having tuition fees.

3) There's such a thing as "welfare state", and our (internationally recognised) education system is all a big part of that. The "unfair" argument is essentially boiled down to a question where supposedly we should only pay taxes for things we want and use. That's not, however, how the welfare state works. I pay taxes to pay for other people's kids to have state-run kindergartens, even though I do not have kids myself. I haven't used the police a lot and never called the fire department, but I'm still glad those services exist.

I'm equally glad to be paying for the education of well-educated doctors, teachers, scientists. There are also indirect benefits. The plumber might not have to go to university but isn't it great that if the plumber's kid wants to go to university, they can, even if the plumber themselves is out of work at the given moment, or has had to retire? That they wouldn't feel discouraged, knowing that they'd have to pay for it, either now or somewhere down the line?

I think there might be some good arguments for other ways to fund the university system but I definitely don't think you can argue it increases inequality.

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