High Tuition a Violation of Human Rights?

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Tuition increases are frustrating, financially burdensome, and perhaps unfair. But are they a violation of human rights? From Inside Higher Ed:

The student union of the University of British Columbia has filed a complaint with the United Nations, seeking to have it declare that tuition increases in Canada violate the country’s commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The complaint states that Canada and British Columbia are not attempting to comply with the covenant, a United Nations treaty. Among its provisions is the following statement about higher education: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

Despite the relatively low tuition cost in Canada, this complaint has been subject to a great deal of attention in the Canadian press.

A similar lawsuit would be unlikely to go far in the United States. President Jimmy Carter signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1979 but the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty. Tuition for Canadian students at the University of British Columbia is about $5,000 a year. In-state tuition at the University of Washington, three hours south, is $7,692 a year.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer