Tuition soars three times above inflation rate

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According to a new report from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA), tuition fees shouldn’t just be a major topic of discussion in one province such as Quebec, but should be for all of Canada.

The report, which is authored by Erika Shaker and David MacDonald, argues that average tuitions fees in the country have risen about 6.2 per cent annually from 1990 to 2011.

This is roughly three times the rate of inflation, therefore signalling that tuition fees and the resulting student debt are having more of an affect on the cost of living than originally perceived.

“Tuition fees are increasingly exponentially, far out-pacing, in the vast majority of cases, inflation, the cost of living and wage increases for medium to low income families across the country,” explained Shaker, noting that Ontario and Alberta are the most expensive in Canada.

The report noted that it now costs the average student, not including additional costs such as rent and food, $6,186 a year to attend university. In Ontario, that average is $7,513.

“Some provinces have made very tangible steps to address poverty and economic inequality to really try and keep tuition fees low and affordable,” continued Shaker. “And others have seen this as an opportunity to continue to invest inadequately and download more and more the cost of higher education to students and their families in the form of tuition fees and the result of student debt that comes along with it.”

Shaker explained that student debt, by severely increasing the cost of living, has strong ramifications for the timing of decisions for the students, such as when to buy a house or to get married. She added that depression rates have also been linked to more debt.

“As a society, we do all suffer from the loss of potential and productivity that is by-product of saddling students with more and more personal debt,” noted Shaker.

The report also painted a gloomy picture of the cost of post-secondary education in Ontario by estimating the cost will reach a staggering $9,231 in the next four years.

Average costs for Newfoundland and Quebec are below the $3,500 mark.

Since March 22, university students in Quebec went on strike to protest the escalating tuition fees that Liberal provincial government at that time said will occur. With the election of the Parti Québecois (PQ), the party has noted that the tuition hikes would no longer happen.

Shaker noted that while funding is increasingly becoming more limited, governments are still putting a limit on how much a university can charge their students.

This results in additional compulsory fees that increase the overall cost of education.

Alysha Li, the president of the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (OUSA), echoed Shaker’s concerns.

“It’s putting enormous pressures on students to pay for their education when their tuitions are rising and it’s substantially out pacing the growth of their resources available to pay for it,” she said.

While tuition fees have been under debate, so has the quality of education.

With the new methods of teaching, which coincidently reduce costs for the university, being introduced, Shaker warned that bringing in those types of practises may not be as effective.

“Moving away from full-time professors is also something else that we have to be very concerned about because, I’m not questioning the quality or the ability of professionals or potential labour that universities are employing, but they tend to have far fewer support than full professors do,” she said.

“If funding is growing insufficient, it will impact the quality of learning and the quality of the learning environment that students are working and living in,” Shaker emphasized.

Li doesn’t think that more expensive education always coincides with better quality, and the current system that Ontario has needs to be used more efficiently.

“We believe that quality doesn’t necessarily equal higher tuition. There’s a lot of different ways within the system to find productivity,” she said.

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