Students across the country are reeling from hefty tuition hikes recently announced by many institutions for the next academic year.
From Victoria to Halifax, tuition fees are set to record one of their biggest one-year increases on record when the 2003 academic year begins this fall.
At the University of Alberta, tuition fees will jump by as much as $6,000 over the next two years. Tuition for medical school will rise from $5,674 to $12,066 by September 2005. Law students will pay almost $9,000 in 2004, up from $4,300 today, and MBA tuition increases from $4,491 to $9,801. All other fees will rise by 6.9 per cent.
U of A board member Lynda Achtem opposed the dramatic increase for professional schools, warning higher fees will shut out many lower- and modest-income students.
“It increases this class structure of haves and have-nots,” she said. “Only very rich people will be able to go into the professions.”
Doug Owram, the university’s provost and academic vice-president, said the university had to raise tuition in order to preserve quality. Provincial funding per student, he said, has been cut almost in half over the last two decades.
But U of A faculty board representative Reuben Kaufman asked why tuition keeps rising even as classroom conditions deteriorate. He said he teaches a biological sciences course where the class size has jumped from 130 students in 1995 to 210 this year and will likely rise to 300 next year.
Elsewhere, the University of Victoria has announced tuition hikes of 30 per cent for undergraduate students, following 30 per cent fee increases last year. The university is also introducing higher fees for law school and business administration.
And Dalhousie University president Tom Traves says fees at his institution will likely rise by between nine and 12 per cent next year.
The rapid jump in fees is prompting the Canadian Federation of Students to renew calls for a nationwide tuition freeze.
At a public forum on accessibility organized by CFS and CAUT last month in Vancouver, student leaders warned that higher fees are making it impossible for more and more students to get a post-secondary education.
“With average undergraduate tuition fees rising more than 135 per cent over the last decade, Canada is moving towards an elitist system of post-secondary education,” said Jaime Matten, B.C. 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 have access to post-secondary education, she said: “Increased tuition fees are widening that gap.”
Students insist it’s time for the federal government to reinvest in colleges and universities.
On April 3, CFS and CAUT will host a national forum on access in Ottawa. Local events are also scheduled for Winnipeg on Feb. 26, Sydney on March 4, Toronto on March 18 and Sudbury on March 25.