There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently about tuition levels in Canada. Actually, the topic rarely leaves the minds of student groups – particularly the Canadian Federation of Students, which actively advocates for lower tuition.
They’ve had some limited success in the latest round of provincial budgets: Newfoundland is maintaining a tuition freeze, as is New Brunswick, along with a freeze in ancillary fees. But tuition will be going up nearly everywhere else: universities in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will all be able to hike tuition by 4.5 to five percent next year – well above inflation – while B.C., Alberta and Quebec will see somewhat smaller tuition hikes.
Considering the CFS is often called “leftist,” it gets some support for its advocacy efforts from an interesting source: a University of Lethbridge professor who blogs under the name “Campus Conservative.” He writes: “I believe student groups are preparing to fight back against demands that they pay more. They should fight back, especially in the absence of a system of loan repayment tied to income.” The entire blog post is well worth a read.
On a related note, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations laments in a new report that rising fees and declining quality means university students are “paying more money for less education.” In current dollars, tuition was $2,750 a year back in 1967, less than half what it is today, the report notes. Every year since 1990, tuition increases in Ontario have outpaced inflation.
The OCUFA report makes for some sober reading, but it remains to be seen what traction it will get from government. I suspect Ken Steele of Academica Group is correct in his analysis of the situation, as reported in an article from the Globe and Mail:
Education consultant Ken Steele sees increases in Canadian tuition levels as inevitable, given the competing demand on government budgets from health care. “I think governments are naturally reluctant to do anything that is unpopular,” he said. “Universities are going to be crying louder and louder that they need more resources. I suspect tuition is the only place we are going to see any give.”