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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2002

Tuition Fees On the Rise Again

Most of Canada's university students will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for tuition fees once again this year, according to the latest survey of fees released by Statistics Canada.

In the 2002-2003 academic year, undergraduate students will pay an average of 4.1 per cent more in fees than in the previous year, the biggest jump in three years. From 1990-1991 to 2000- 2001 average undergraduate tuition fees increased by 135 per cent, more than six times faster than the increase in inflation recorded over the same period.

"Canada's universities are in danger of returning to their elitist roots as tuition fees spiral out of control," said CAUT president Victor Catano. "As a country, our university admissions must be based on ability, not wealth. We need to attract the best and brightest, not just those that can afford the sticker price."

Average undergraduate fees are on the rise in six provinces: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. The largest fee hikes will be in B.C., at 25.2 per cent, where earlier this year the provincial government ended a seven-year tuition freeze.

"These massive fee hikes have created a crisis in accessibility," said Ian Boyko, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Students from low- and middle-income families are already less than half as likely as other Canadians to access post-secondary education, and increased tuition fees are widening that gap."

Catano noted the situation is particularly worrisome for graduate and professional students who continue to face massive increases. Graduate fees increased 11.1 per cent from 2001-2002, with the highest increase in B.C. at 31.2 per cent. Law and medicine students will also face the largest fee increases in 2002-2003. Average medical school fees jumped 8.1 per cent, while law school fees increased 14.7 per cent.

"This not only excludes many less wealthy students, it skews what they study," Catano said. "How are we going to attract new doctors to work in rural areas, or in public health, or go into research careers when they will have debts in excess of $100,000 to pay back?"

Catano praised the governments of Quebec and Manitoba for limiting tuition fee increases for 2002-2003 and Newfoundland for decreasing them by 10 per cent.