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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2000

Education Moving Out of Reach

CAUT's latest Education Review warns higher education is moving beyond the reach of more Canadian families.

Canadian families are increasingly finding the prospect of a university or college education for their children moving beyond their reach, concludes a report released in February by CAUT.

Out of Reach: Trends in Household Spending on Education finds that Canadian households have dramatically increased their education-related expenditures in recent years, primarily as a result of rising university and college tuition fees.

"The soaring cost of post-secondary education has placed a considerable burden on low- and middle-income households," the report concludes. "If current trends continue, access to post-secondary education will be increasingly divided along income lines."

The study reports that between 1992 and 1998, following a wave of government cuts, education-related expenditures were the most rapidly rising component of all household spending, growing by nearly 40 per cent when adjusted for inflation. By contrast, total household spending on all items rose less than 4 per cent over the same period.

"What's particularly troubling is that out-of-pocket spending on post-secondary education has ballooned at the same time that household incomes have declined," noted CAUT president Bill Graham. "Low- and middle-income families are now paying a far greater share of their disposable income in tuition. The situation is simply not sustainable."

According to the report, the rise in education-related expenditures is almost entirely the result of the rapid increase in post-secondary tuition fees. Households reporting spending on university and college tuition were paying 60 per cent more in real terms in 1998 than in 1992 with lower- and middle-income households paying considerably more of their after-tax disposable income to finance post-secondary education.

Graham said the federal and provincial governments need to recognize that soaring costs mean many Canadian families may have already rejected the idea of their children pursuing post-secondary education.

"Governments must address the basic cause of the problem -- the cuts to core public funding of Canada's colleges and universities," he said.