University students face smaller tuition increases
Published Thursday, October 18, 2007 5:42PM EDT
TORONTO - Tuition at Canadian universities didn't go up by much this fall, but the modest increase is still part of a persistent trend that's pricing too many people out of post-secondary school, students said Thursday as Statistics Canada released its annual figures on the costs of education.
Statistics Canada reported that full-time students in undergraduate programs are paying an average of 2.8 per cent more in tuition fees for the 2007-08 academic year. Last year's fee increase was 3.2 per cent, and the average annual increase over the last decade was 4.3 per cent.
Full-time undergrads are paying an average of $4,524 in tuition fees this academic year, up from $4,400 last year. In 1998-99, undergrad tuitions averaged $3,064, while in 1988-89, they averaged $1,185.
Full-time graduate students are paying an average of $5,447 in tuition fees, up from $5,387 last year.
Students were relieved that fees didn't jump significantly this year, but the news is hardly worth celebrating, said Amanda Aziz, national chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students.
"It is discouraging that tuition fees are continuing to increase given how much higher they are today than they were just 10 years ago,'' she said.
"Survey after survey shows Canadians are very concerned with financial barriers and are very concerned with the rising cost of education.''
A study commissioned by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation suggests that young people coming from families with an income of more than $100,000 are more than twice as likely to go to university compared to students from families earning less than $25,000.
The study also cites research that says participation in higher education drops by 1.3 per cent with every $1,000 increase in tuition fees.
Other research suggests nearly two out of every three jobs created between 2004 and 2008 will require a college or university degree, so all levels of governments must recognize that schooling is a necessity and make it affordable, Aziz said.
"One of our primary concerns is in terms of people's ability to participate in post-secondary education because it is and has become so important in terms of a person's ability to meaningfully participate in the economy,'' she said.
Universities are often unfairly blamed for hiking tuition fees, but they too are "constantly'' lobbying the federal and provincial governments to increase funding so enrolling remains affordable, said Trent University president Bonnie Patterson, who is also chairwoman of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
"The reality, of course, is that universities only have two main sources of revenue: tuition and government funding ... and there's no doubt that one or the other has to give,'' she said, adding that she considered this year's increases to be reasonable.
"We certainly have seen a real moderation in the increases, and that moderation of course has been in part through government policy and also universities trying to be responsible in covering costs and not putting it all on the backs of students.''
Statistics Canada said tuition fees for full-time undergraduate students rose in six provinces, including Quebec, where a freeze on tuition fees for residents, in place for more than 10 years, was lifted earlier this year.
The biggest increases were in New Brunswick and Quebec, where fees rose 4.8 per cent, and in Ontario, where they went up 4.4 per cent.
Fees declined in Prince Edward Island (down 9.8 per cent) and Nova Scotia (down 8.5), while remaining virtually unchanged in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Despite substantial declines, undergrads in Nova Scotia still paid the highest tuition at an average of $5,878.
Aziz said the federal government should restore the billions of dollars in funding that were cut from the post-secondary system in the 1990s, while more provincial governments should institute tuition freezes to protect students.