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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2000

Government Funding Cuts Hamper Access

A Statistics Canada report says that the rapid increase in tuition fees is widening the gap in university participation rates between the rich and poor in Canada.

Measuring the socio-economic status of university students between 1986 and 1994, the study found that participation rates for young people from low and middle-income families were similar in 1986, but had widened dramatically by 1994. Participation rates for students from higher income households are significantly higher than those from middle and low-income families.

"Students from low-income households have simply been unable to shoulder the burden of higher tuition fees," said CAUT president Tom Booth. "It's time our governments take a serious look at how funding cuts are threatening accessibility and equality of opportunity."

Booth also noted that despite the improved fiscal climate in Canada, there is little sign that governments are prepared to reinvest in post-secondary education. Provincial funding of post-secondary education, when measured on a per capita and constant dollar basis, declined slightly again last year, and remains well below levels of the early and mid-1990s.

"Although government cuts have shown some sign of bottoming out in the past two years," Booth added, "it would still require an immediate investment of nearly $1.9 billion to bring funding levels back to where there were in 1991."

Federal transfers to universities and colleges declined by more than 20 per cent since 1991, Booth said, while provincial transfers dropped 12 per cent. By contrast, university and college revenues from tuition fees soared by 40 per cent.

Among the provinces in 1999/ 00, post-secondary education expenditures when measured on a per capita basis and in constant 1992 dollars, were highest in Quebec ($418), Alberta ($349) and British Columbia ($347). Expenditures are lowest in Prince Edward Island ($269), Nova Scotia ($277) and Ontario ($286).

Provincial operating grants to universities last year increased modestly in only half the provinces over the previous year. Real per capita funding in all provinces remains well below 1992/93 levels.