We can't tackle the problem of growing income inequality if we are systematically tieing the hands of students, forcing them into a life of debt and poverty. What kind of national strategy is that?" — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (12 Sept. 2014) — Tuition in Canada is estimated to increase by 13% says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The study Tier for Two: Managing the Optics of Provincial Tuition Fee Policies provides a detailed report of the dramatic increases in post-secondary education costs by provinces.
Study shows how higher education is becoming something few can afford
The study reveals trends across the country in tuition and compulsory fees since 1993 and projects the fees for the next four years. The authors rank each province by affordability for median- and low-income families.
"At a time when study after study shows that families' incomes are not keeping pace with the cost of living, when finding a good job with a decent salary and enough hours to get by on is harder and harder, and when debt levels are already at an all-time high, these tuition increases are putting higher education out of reach for too many," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
"Right now, our government and our institutions are failing our students. Without an employment strategy that will provide good jobs for graduates at the end of the road, these students are mortgaging their futures on a hope and a prayer. We need increased government funding so that universities don't have to fill the funding gaps on the backs of students."
Universities relying on unregulated compulsory fees and two-tier tuition fees to make up for government funding shortfalls
The CCPA study reports that compulsory ancilliary fees are the "go-to method for universities to circumvent fee caps and charge students more money,in part to compensate for insufficient core public funding."
Even still, the report shows that the "average tuition and other compulsory fees in Canada have almost tripled between 1993-94 and 2014-15, ranging from an increase of 239% in Ontario to 35% in Newfoundland and Labrador."
As fees have skyrocketed, public funding as a share of universities' operating revenue has decreased from 70% in 1993 to 55% in 2011. Tutiion fees, on the other hand, during this same period have increased from 18% to 37% of universities' operating revenue.
Another way universities are bringing in more revenue is by charging out-of-proivnce students more than in-province students.
“As fees continue to increase, almost without exception, provincial policies have shifted to a de facto two-tiered fee structure that sees in-province students charged less than out-of-province students for the same degree. It’s undercut the principle of universality, as students find themselves in very different financial situations depending on the province in which they reside and where they choose to pursue their education,” explains CCPA Education Director Erika Shaker.
Education the great equalizer
Nationally, university education has become, on average, 20% less affordable for median families in Canada since 1993.
"This kind of education policy is not good for society. It's not good for the economy," Clancy continues. "While students are going deeper and deeper into debt each year, they won't be contributing to the economy. They'll be focused on making payments."
"Education is supposed to be the great equalizer that lets every person get a fair shot at a better life," says Clancy. "Yet that concept is getting farther from our reach. We can't tackle the problem of growing income inequality if we are systematically tieing the hands of students, forcing them into a life of debt and poverty. What kind of national strategy is that?"
"We appreciate the work the CCPA has done to sound the alarm about this crisis. Now we need the governments and universities to take action to make access more affordable for all Canadians."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE