As they return to classes this fall, university students are facing the biggest increase in tuition fees in four years, reports Statistics Canada.
Undergraduate students will pay an average of $4,025 in tuition fees this year, almost three times the average of $1,464 reported in 1990-1991. When adjusted for inflation, fees have skyrocketed by almost 100 per cent over the same period.
The rising cost of a university education, student leaders warn, is preventing more and more Canadians from pursuing a degree.
"More than 100,000 young people are shut out of higher education every year because of financial barriers," said Ian Boyko, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "The inability of the federal and provincial governments to work together to guarantee accessibility to post-secondary education is a disgrace."
He noted that for the second consecutive year, British Columbia is posting the biggest spike in tuition as fees are set to rise by 30.4 per cent following last year's rise of 25.7 per cent. These increases follow in the wake of the provincial
government's decision to end a six-year freeze on tuition fees in 2002.
Undergraduate tuition in Manitoba has been frozen, and will drop by 4.5 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador, marking the fourth year in a row in which university fees in the province have remained stable or dropped. Fees also remain frozen for Quebec residents who attend one of the province's universities, but will increase by almost 3 per cent for out-of-province Canadian residents.
Meanwhile, students in Nova Scotia continue to pay the highest fees in the country at $5,557, followed by Ontario at $4,923.
Fees for graduate programs are also on the rise. Average graduate tuition is up 6.8 per cent from last year and now stands at an average of $5,199, with graduate students in Ontario still paying the highest fees in the country at $8,376.
"As a country, we need to be doing a lot more to make sure that the best and the brightest are able to pursue advanced degrees," said CAUT president Victor Catano. "Admission to any university program must be based on a student's academic ability, not their family's ability to afford it."
He also noted that tuition fees for law, dentistry and medicine are rising sharply. Average tuition fees in medicine will rise 16.7 per cent while law students will pay a 19.4 per cent increase. Dental students are facing a year-over-year increase of almost 21 per cent with fees now averaging more than $11,000.
"The rise in tuition at professional schools isn't just closing the door on students from less wealthy families, but it's also affecting the career choices of those who can afford to attend," says Catano. "When medical students can expect to enter the profession with staggering debt loads of $100,000 it comes as little surprise that we now have the lowest number of students intending to practice family medicine."
Statistics Canada also reports that undergraduate students will pay an average of $623 in additional compulsory fees for the coming academic year, up 9 per cent from last year. Fees for services include recreation and athletics facilities, student health services, counselling and placement services, student organizations and other fees for general services on campus.