[How is free education for all not progressive?
That's simple. It amounts to giving a big subsidy to students from higher-income families who disproportionately attend PSE. Lower tuition will only make a marginal difference to this because the other costs associated with PSE are larger when you combine books, transportation, food and housing. The opportunity cost involved in not working or at least not working as much is also important. Also, the most important barriers to post-secondary education are put in place earlier in life. Poor children don't do as well in elementary school and this effect persists through high school. Poorer children also aren't as encouraged/forced to aim for PSE by their parents.
Not that I want to take over this thread with tuition issues, but...
Sorry, this is the kind of argument that neoliberal hacks like Bob Rae and Alex Usher disingenuously push in order to sucker progressives into supporting regressive policies like high tuition.
Hugh MacKenzie from the CCPA (damn it, the link isn't working) pretty much demolished this argument by showing that subsidizing tuition is a net transfer from the rich to the poor. Tuition fees themselves are regressive, the less money you make the higher the percent you have to spend on tuition. Subsidized tuition is progressive because it is supported by progressive taxation, and even after years of neoliberalism and increasing tuition fees, it is still a net transfer from the rich to the poor. Yes, people from upper-class backgrounds are a little overrepresented (although university is far from a haven of the rich, although some people want to make it that way), but they also pay more into the system due to their tax rates. The upper class pays a higher proportion than the proportion of students from the upper class who attend, and the lower class pays less than the proportion of lower class students who attend, so it's definitely progressive. Unfortunately, this system is under attack by the very same people who claim to want to help low-income students by raising their tuition then giving them a bursary.
Also, in various surveys, a majority of people have cited cost as the main reason they didn't go to university. And there are a lot of people with financial problems who have difficulty getting bursaries, or who don't know how to navigate the bursary system, and thus stay away from university.
I agree that eliminating tuition isn't the only thing that has to be done (you do lose a lot of earning potential for a few years, so some people would need programs like living allowances and such, and I know how expensive textbooks are), but ask any student who is having trouble making their January tuition payment, and they will agree that eliminating tuition would help them a lot.
So, if we have some extra money to put into education, we can blow it on lowering tuition and help a lot of people who probably don't need the help. Alternatively, we can be more cost-effective in opening up opportunities for PSE for students of working-class families and also for adults desiring to or being forced to make a career change.
So, if this argument is taken to its logical conclusion, you would oppose any sort of universal social programs because some people who use them don't need the help. Would you support bringing in tuition fees for elementary and high school, but give out bursaries to poor families? How about two-tier healthcare, as the rich don't need the help paying for it? Maybe we can bring back means tests too.
Sadly, tuition these days is higher than it has been since at least the 40s, and shows no signs of going down in the near future. Wanting to keep it that high is not a progressive position. Would you at least support cutting tuition to the levels it was at 20, 30, or 40 years ago, when my premier took out a student loan and had such difficulty paying it off that they had to garnish his salary when he was a cabinet minister?