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Marni Soupcoff: How to fix Canadian universities? Go private

According to the blog of Reason magazine, American entrepreneur Bob Luddy is launching a private university in North Carolina that will charge students US $ 11,000 a year in tuition, which makes it considerably less expensive than most private universities in the United States. (Tuition fees published for private four-year schools in the U.S. have an average of US $ 34,740).

It's a nice thing to see: Luddy is creating a relatively affordable and useful higher education option by reducing the excessive spending he consumes. It is typical of universities; by not requiring professors to publish (they are there to teach); and by offering a straight education in liberal arts without electives.

The school, which will be called Thales College, will teach its students logic, western literature, mathematics, economics, finance and ethics.

The school … will teach its students logic, western literature, mathematics, economics, finance and ethics

It will not teach its students the sociology of Miley Cyrus (a real course at Skidmore College in the state of New York) or the story of zombies in the media (a real offer at Columbia University in New York City, where tuition amounts to more than US $ 30K).

Thales will not attract everyone, but it is an excellent model to make post-secondary education less expensive and less crazy than the status quo.

It is a pity that it is so difficult to create private universities in Canada. Because although tuition for public universities is relatively low here (an average of around $ 6,500 a year thanks to heavy government subsidies), it is increasing every year; and it is far from clear that students are getting the value of their money (or their parents'). We could really do some experimentation.

As for Canadian private universities, you will be forgiven if you did not even know there were any.

Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., is one of the few private universities in Canada.

Ben Nelms for National Post

Only a handful exists throughout the country. And until Trinity Western University (in Langley, B.C.) set out to start a law school and landed in court, those that do exist were not well-known names. (Quest University, in Squamish, BC, and Yorkville University, just north of Toronto, almost do not have the same prestige as American private schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale).

The usual explanation for this is that there is not a big market for private universities in Canada. But that is based on the assumption that such schools would have to charge more than three times the enrollment of their public counterparts.

It would have more candidates for a Canadian school at the Thales price point, which becomes about CDN $ 14,500 in tuition a year.

You would have more students for a Canadian school at the price of Thales

You would also have many students who would appreciate some of the things that help keep Thales's costs low; for example, online courses complemented by Socratic group discussions in person, led by professors who may or may not have a PhD but who were hired because they are excellent educators.

Luddy is not taking a blind leap with Thales University. Not at all.

He already has more than a decade of experience managing Thales Academy, a successful network of private preschool through grade 12 schools, whose mission is "to provide an excellent and affordable education … through the use of direct instruction and a classic curriculum that embodies traditional American values. "

Located in Garibaldi Highlands of Squamish, BC, on the Pacific coast, Quest University hosted its inaugural class in September 2007. The school is a private, secular and non profit.

Quest University /

Luddy wants "to build an American educational model that develops students to their highest possible potential at the lowest possible cost".

Luddy would not be popular in Canada. The education establishment and teachers' unions here become apoplectic about words like "classical curriculum" and can not even admit that students are mentioned in the same sentence as at low costs, no matter how well the values would be reviewed.

But parents and students tend to be a bit more practical.

The beauty of Thales (both the academy and the university) is that they serve to make the playing field a little more level. (This is not as late as it seems.)

Teacher unions here become apoplectic with words like 'classic curriculum'


Normally, only the richest and most successful children have the luxury of choosing the schools that best suit them: they can pay for the high enrollment of a primary school Private specialized or secondary school (either oriented to gifted students or with learning disabilities or children that fit into both categories); and they can pay Harvard or have an academic or sports record spectacular enough to win a scholarship.

Thales opens the door for working class families and average children to choose the education they receive. wants, despite not having purses or special abilities.

I am a father whose children have been thinking about postsecondary education for many years, but even now, I shudder at the idea of ​​disbursing thousands of dollars for a university with big classes, absurd academics (I'm thinking about the professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who pretended to be trainer Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights), and obsolete teaching models.

Thales College's approach is attractive. Now we just need a phenomenally rich Canadian to follow in the footsteps of Bob Luddy.

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