Cost of university to rise 13 per cent over four years

Students will need deeper pockets to study at Canadian universities over the next four years with annual fees projected to rise 13 per cent on average to $7,755, having almost tripled over the past 20 years, according to a new report.

Students will need deeper pockets to study at Canadian universities over the next four years with annual fees projected to rise 13 per cent on average to $7,755, having almost tripled over the past 20 years, according to a new report.

Students in Ontario can expect to shell out $9,483 on average in tuition and other compulsory fees in 2017-18. Fees in the province have nearly quadrupled over the last two decades, said the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The high cost of getting a degree is an “enormous financial stress” for students and their families, said Erika Shaker, director of the left-leaning think-tank’s education project.

“All the evidence both in Canada and the U.S. does indicate that financial stressors on students are even more pronounced than stressing about academic performance,” she said.

But if high-school graduates don’t like the idea of subsisting on a diet of Kraft Dinner and ramen noodles, they may want to head to Newfoundland and Labrador, which is getting top marks for its low fees that are projected to reach $2,888 in 2017-18. They’ve increased by 35 per cent over two decades.

Provincial funding for universities is inadequate, the report said. Universities are seeing it decline as a share of their operating revenue, while tuition fees are going up.

Several provinces are trying to “mitigate the optics” of ever-higher tuition fees with such policies as capping increases to the cost of living, it said.

Ontario offers to refund up to $1,780 in tuition fees to students. But it doesn’t directly reduce tuition and doesn’t apply to all undergrads, such as part-time students, the report noted.

The funding gap is driving universities to download more costs on students by charging additional compulsory fees on top of tuition that are subject to few, if any, restrictions, the report said. Those fees — such as athletic fees and student association fees — amounted to $817 on average last year, with Alberta having the highest and Newfoundland the lowest.

“Universities are having to get a little bit more creative about how they’re increasing their revenues and taking them out of students,” said Shaker.

“What we are seeing are some institutions actually implement new fees entirely: fees to graduate, for example, or facilities fees.”

It makes it very difficult for students to predict how much they’ll have to pay in the coming year, said Jessica McCormick, national chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“It also means that it’s difficult for students to save up to cover the cost of tuition fees,” she said.

“Students are working throughout the summer and during the year, in either part-time or sometimes full-time jobs, and they are still required to take out loans to be able to cover all of those costs.”

Shaker said government efforts to clamp down on tuition hikes don’t seem to be working.

The average fee is blowing through the caps because there are a number of programs that don’t have to observe them.

Students are also expected to pay “vastly different” tuition based on where they live and where they want to study, which undermines the universality of post-secondary education, she said.

Some provinces — such as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Ontario — have two-tier fee structure, providing more financial breaks to in-province students than those from outside the province, she said.

Ontario’s governing Liberals argue the report is “wilfully glossing over” more than $1 billion in student assistance programs that the government provides to lower costs and increase access, such as limiting the amount of debt students must repay.

Average student debt for a four-year program, adjusted for inflation, has declined by almost 21 per cent since 2000 and 38 per cent of students graduated with no debt in 2012, said Zak Paget, a spokesman for Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi.

The report “does a disservice to students and families by mischaracterizing the cost of post-secondary education in Ontario,” he said in an email.

Shaker said Newfoundland’s approach to making university education affordable seems to be working. It has one of the lowest tuition fees in the country, having rolled them back by 25 per cent a decade ago and capped them. The province is even slated to eliminate the provincial portion of student loans and replace them with needs-based grants by 2015.

It realized long ago that investing in post-secondary education would help combat poverty, which benefits the province, she said. Others need to realize that there are “enormous returns” to having affordable post-secondary education.

“The public investment in post-secondary education is sadly declining … the individual contribution is increasing,” Shaker said.

“That’s a significant concern for families who are already dealing with stagnant incomes, who are already dealing with high levels of household debt.”

Just Posted

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month