Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Think Tank Study: University Costs in Canada Have Tripled Since 1990

Student Money Troubles

Students expecting financial relief shouldn’t count on it in the near future, says a new report.

Students who hoped some financial relief might be in the near future received some disappointing news from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently. The think tank’s new report shows that University costs have tripled since 1990 and is expected to increase yet again in the next few years.

According to the study’s forecasts, the inflation-adjusted cost of an undergraduate university degree is expected to climb an average of 8.6 per cent over the next four years. This continues the trend that has seen the price tag triple over the past two decades.

Inflation-adjusted costs of tuition and other compulsory fees averaged $2,243 across the country in 1990, but that figure climbed to $6,254 for the 2012-13 academic year — and the numbers are expected to keep rising.  For example, the report says that the basic cost of an undergraduate degree in 2016-17 is projected to average $6,842, more than three times 1990 levels.

“There’s been a shift in how we think about tuition fees and how we think about post-secondary education,” says the study’s co-author, Erika Shaker, “moving away from the sense that this is a public good and something that we benefit collectively from very substantially because social and economic returns on education are very high.”

Shaker adds that this shift in thinking may eventually short-change the country by placing Canadians at an economic disadvantage. For example, says Shaker, students who are burdened with crippling debt loads may be less likely to own homes or accumulate wealth, and may have considerable trouble relieving their debt load.

Additionally, the unemployment rate for young people is nearly double the national average, and new graduates are more likely to find themselves in temporary or contract jobs with uncertain long-term prospects. This, in turn, can have an effect on the student’s family, who may postpone retirement or dip into crucial savings to help pay for the child’s education.

“The effects of debt aren’t just being borne by the students, they’re being borne by the people closest to them who want to support them as well,” Shaker said.

Although the provinces do help through loans, grants and bursaries, the study suggests that they have cut back on these over the past 20 years. In 1990, 71 per cent of tuition fees were covered by some form of government funding; in 2009, that number decreased to 55 per cent.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ study reports that Quebec has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, averaging $2.825 per student. In the same study period of 2012-13, Ontario’s tuition averaged $7,943, the highest in the nation.

Linda Galeazzi
Author: Linda Galeazzi
Linda Galeazzi has been an online writer and proof reader for several years.
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