The Most Important Thing Left Out of the Budget Discussion

There's been a lot of hoop-lah and ballyhoo and other old-timey words that indicate a ruckus over the most recent budget announced by the Liberal government. It's mostly warrented and as far as I'm concerned I think most of those conservative hypocrites can fuck themselves all to death - but there is one thing that bothers me more than anything. Aside from all the cuts to hospitals and the cuts to essentially everything that is a thing, what really grinds my gears is the assault that's being mounted on the education system.

And before I get stuck in, stop focusing on Tony Abbott's 'not-bad-looking-daugher' getting a scholarship. It's frankly none of our business. I could give a fuck. Anyone who's well connected can do that. Of all the sins this government has committed that's not even close to the most grave.

Not bad.

Not bad.

The thing that does bother me about this education debate is that education is being framed in a far too reductive way; simply in turns of 'Return on Investment' (or ROI). Far too often I've heard Christopher Pyne talking about how the 60% of Australian Battler's are funding the education costs of someone going to uni and that's not fair. Here's a newsflash: that's what government is for.

I may not like the School Chaplaincy Program (and just to be clear, I don't, it's dumb) but my tax dollars, in part, go to fund it anyway. That's the point of living in a democracy. That's the social contract to which we have all agreed. I sacrifice a part of my salary every week and in turn I have roads and hospitals and schools and stuff that are important for running a damn society. I may not agree how every single dollar is spent ($24bn on new jets we don't need, for example) but that's the agreement I've made. 

I know you want me...

I know you want me...

It's not right (or frankly fair) for me to turn around and say 'Hey, I don't have a vagina, so why are my tax dollars going to pap smears or breast scans?' Why? I don't personally have this issue, so why should I help in that specific regard? Because it's a society, you twat. You have something that costs money that nobody else has. If you walk to work there is still part of your pay check that is going to roads. If you are a woman, you are in part, paying for some old guy to get his prostate removed. That's what being a society is. We ALL contribute and we do our best to look after EVERYONE. Allegedly. 

It's not good enough to say, 'Oh well, I got my education, fuck youse.' That's not good enough. Education, in particular, is something that benefits everyone. Literally. If you go to university you are statistically likely to earn 8% more for the rest of your life for every year you spend in tertiary education. That extra money that you earn, guess what, gets taxed and you more than pay for your education over the course of your life. Literally everyone wins. 

http://degreesearch.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/bright_outlook_infographic2.gif

http://degreesearch.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/bright_outlook_infographic2.gif

Now forget all that. It's true, but it's very reductive. The fact is, having a highly educated society is just good. It's good to have. When did we forget this? Getting further education (any education) means you are generally a more open, thoughtful and considerate person than you otherwise would have been. Education makes you more employable and with a highly educated society we are more likely to elect good politicians and make quality decisions. Education is the primary imperative of any society that wants to be a world leader in anything. Everyone should have the option to get further education if they want it.

If you want to encourage people to build businesses and tech startups and every other single job of the future, you need one thing: smart people that have specialised skills. Skills that they likely got from Universities that they could afford. By locking a single person out of this system we could be dooming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg from ever starting in the first place. Just because he started poor.

Where'd I go? Oh right, Harvard. Cause I could afford it.

Where'd I go? Oh right, Harvard. Cause I could afford it.

Sure, you can put all your University fees on a government loan (at up to 6% interest now - which is double what I get from my 'high-interest savings account') but if the cost of your degree from a prestigious University ends up doubling or tripling, you might think twice about getting it in the first place. Say you drop-out or you never earn enough money to begin paying it back. Mazeltov! You now have tens of thousands of dollars (maybe over a hundred thousand dollars) worth of debt, climbing at a potential rate twice that of inflation and wage increases. Good luck ever trying to get a home loan with that red mark against your name. No, seriously, good luck.

All this does is lock people into cycles of poverty. If all you can ever do is afford a second rate degree that nobody takes seriously, you will always remain second rate. You will never be able to compete with someone who paid $200,000 for a degree from the new 'Ivy League' that will form in Australia. Also, they may not go ahead an get that Art's Degree that they really want, but realistically provides fewer job opportunities. Yay for flushing culture down the drain!

There's some stuff about farms, but the rest is relevant. 

There's some stuff about farms, but the rest is relevant. 

I foolishly believe that if someone is willing to learn and work hard, they should be afforded the same opportunity to get a degree that some rich kid can. Christopher Pyne says this deregulation of fees will encourage 'competition' because as we all know the most prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale always have to compete to get people to enter their doors. It's so hard! WHY CAN'T WE GET ANY STUDENTS?? He reckons it'll drive prices down. We'll see.

So, in summery, the most important thing that's been left out of the budget discussion is this: Education has so many more, wide-reaching benefits to all of society than just the ROI. Can someone please start talking about them?

To see the product of Jorge's Sandstone University education, follow him on twitter @JorgeTsipos and listen to the incredibly intelligent podcast Unnatural Selection.