There are currently approximately 80,000 Ontarians enrolled in university and college programs in Ontario, assuming an average of $6500 in annual tuition, providing them with a tuition free post secondary education would cost about $520 million a year.
Of course the goal of such a program beyond relieving the financial burden from students is to increase those enrollment numbers so lets assume enrollment doubles that would take the cost to just over a billion dollars a year. About the cost of one boondoggle.
The above numbers assume that every student would qualify or even desire to attend university, which isn't the case. Many would opt for a community college or even trade school instead so the cost of this program could be even lower. Yes there will be infrastructure costs involved, we would need new buildings among other things, these do not come cheap.
Building schools, I can't think of a better way to spend tax dollars and create jobs, certainly a good investment. As for staffing the cost is already included within the price of tuition.
At one time only providing a tuition free high school education made sense however that is no longer the case as a post secondary diploma or certificate has become the new minimum requirement for gainful employment. Plus it makes no economic or social sense to saddle our kids with an average of $35,000 in debt upon graduation.
This debt load not only puts a huge strain on the economic and emotional well being of students it stunts economic growth. Servicing this debt keeps graduates from buying homes, cars and other big ticket items.
So to sum up we can not only afford to do this, we can't afford not to. We can continue down this ruinous path or we can have cohort after cohort of well educated graduates ready to fill the jobs Canada needs to prosper along with the disposable income to spur the economy to greater heights.