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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2005

Poll: Public Supports More Money for Post-Secondary Education

Eight out of 10 Canadians believe the federal government should boost spending on post-secondary education, according to the latest national public opinion poll commissioned by CAUT.

When asked what the priority of any new federal funding should be, more than 44 per cent of the survey's respondents said the money should be used to reduce tuition fees.

"More and more Canadians are concerned about the cost of university and college education, and for good reason," said CAUT president Loretta Czernis. "Fees have more than doubled in the past decade in most provinces, while in some professional programs tuition is now five and six times what it was."

A majority of respondents said they believed it was more difficult to get a post-secondary education today. Fifty-nine per cent of people surveyed said it was harder for lower-income students today to get a college or university education than just 10 years ago, while 22 per cent disagreed.

In British Columbia, where fees have skyrocketed in the past two years, nearly 70 per cent of respondents said high tuition costs are making it more difficult to get a degree.

Canadians are also concerned about the rising tuition fees in professional schools such as law, medicine and dentistry, said the survey by Decima Research. Governments and administrations often justify steep hikes in these programs on the grounds that students will earn more when they graduate and should therefore be expected to pay more.

But it's an argument that most Canadians don't accept. Only 21 per cent of people surveyed said it was acceptable to charge higher fees to students in professional programs, while 74 per cent said it was wrong because high tuition costs would prevent lower- and middle-income students from attending these schools.

The survey went on to show more people are willing to pay higher taxes if that translates into more funding for universities and colleges. When asked whether they would support a tax increase if the extra revenues were used to fund post-secondary education, 27 per cent of respondents said they would and only 15 per cent said they would not support a tax hike.

"We've seen over a number of polls now that there's a strong desire on the part of Canadians to have their governments improve funding for post-secondary education," Czernis said. "It's time we step up our lobbying efforts to make sure governments are getting the message."

Decima polled 2,000 Canadians in March and gave the survey a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.