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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2006

High Tuition, Static Enrolment

Canada has the highest level of post-secondary education attainment in the developed world, but a new report warns it will soon be overtaken by other countries because of stagnant growth in the enrolment rate over the past decade.

Education at a Glance 2006, released last month by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says that 53 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 34 hold a university degree or college diploma, well above the average of 31 per cent for OECD member countries.
However, the report warns that the growth in demand for post-secondary education has “halted in Canada in stark contrast with the trend everywhere else, suggesting that other countries are catching up.”
In absolute terms, Canada experienced the lowest increase in enrolments of all OECD countries, with only 4 per cent more university and college students in 2002 than in 1995, compared to a 49 per cent increase in the OECD on average.
“Enrolments rates have barely increased compared to 1995, suggesting that the demand for tertiary qualifications is static in Canada,” the OECD noted.
CAUT president Greg Allain says it is no coincidence enrolment rates leveled off over the same period that tuition fees skyrocketed.
“Between 1995 and 2002, average university undergraduate tuition fees rose by nearly 60 per cent,” he said.
These higher tuition fees rank Canada well above the OECD average in terms of the share of spending on post-secondary education coming from private sources. Almost 44 per cent of all spending on universities and colleges in Canada is privately funded, and almost double the OECD average of 23.6 per cent. Only Korea, Japan, the United States and Australia rank higher.
“High tuition fees also account for the fact that students in Canada report the second highest levels of debt of all OECD countries, behind only the United States,” Allain said.

The OECD’s 454-page report is available for upload at 9606061e.pdf.