Student loans are a major feature of today's educational system, especially in the U.S. The UK is looking to follow that model, and over the past few years has introduced some modest tuition fees. Canadian universities are inexpensive compred to their south-of-the-border counterparts, and not just because of the exchange rate. However, Canadian universities with high aspirations are tending to raise their tuition, when not barred by Provincial law, for the same reason that Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) does: all of them want to attract top students, and there's a perception among them that top students will think that a degree which comes with too cheap a price tag will be a less prestigious degree. The difference is, in Grinell's case, that the college has a large enough endowment that all of its students could attend for free and it could still operate.*
Anyways, I was thinking about this thanks to an article I wandered across earlier on Daypop which discusses the economic effects of so many college graduates shouldering such enormous loans. The article included this engrossing bit of trivia:
The United States' insistence that students assume huge debts to pay for their college education is unusual enough that the Chinese government included it in its 2001 report of American human rights violations.
* I can't document this offhand, but I do at least remember when and where I was when this was mentioned to me.