University fees are projected to increase by 13 percent on average over the next four years, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
In their September report on Managing the Optics of Provincial Tuition Fee Policies, the CCPA projected the average cost of tuition and compulsory fees for full-time undergraduate students to rise from an average of $6,589 in 2013-14 to $7,755 in 2017-18. For comparison, the average cost in 1993-94 was $2,320.
The report tabs the declining role of government involvement as one reason for tuition hikes. In 1991, public funding accounted for 79 percent of university operating revenue. That figure has dropped to 55 percent in 2011. This is mirrored by a rise in tuition fees as a share of university operating revenue, of which have doubled from 18 percent to 37 percent over the same time period.
Similarly, additional compulsory fees outside of tuition costs have been on the incline. The report notes that compulsory fees — which are mostly unregulated on the provincial level — have also been a means by which universities charge students, at times to avoid government fee caps. Again, the report notes this practice is done in part to offset declining public funding. In Ontario, compulsory fees have increased by 239 percent over the past 20 years.
Cost increases have varied by province. Tuition and compulsory fees in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, are projected to increase by just $16 over the next four years — an increase of less than one percent. Meanwhile, a 22 percent increase is projected for Quebec.
Data courtesy of CCPA’s Sept. 10 report. Four-year period reflects changes in total tuition and compulsory fees for full-time undergraduates between 2013-14 and 2017-18
Percent increases, however, don’t necessarily paint the entire picture with respect to costs. Ontario laps the field in both current and projected total fees; in 2013-14, the average total of tuition and compulsory fees for full-time undergraduates in the province was $8,162, with Saskatchewan ranking a distant second at $6,882. The gap figures to narrow slightly over the next four years, but Ontario schools are still projected to be the most expensive across provinces in Canada in 2017-18 at $9,483. The projected 2014-15 figures are listed below.
Data courtesy of CCPA’s Sept. 10 report. Figures reflect total tuition and compulsory fees for full-time undergraduates
The report also mentions that Ontario tuition fees have repeatedly broken through capped figures for tuition fee increases. Prior to 2013, the Ontario government mandated that tuition fees were not to increase by more than 5 percent annually. The cap dropped to 3 percent in 2013, but the report cites that tuition fees increased by 4 percent last year. These figures also don’t factor in to fees of non-undergraduate students, of which are also believed to have experienced even steeper increases.
Circumvention of provincially mandated caps, however, is a problem that afflicts multiple provinces, not just Ontario. Similar strategies of tying capped increases to inflation have also been implemented to varying degrees in Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, but the report denounces the move as more PR-related than effective. According to the CCPA, these trends reflect “an increasingly patchwork, privatized and individualized system of university financing,” and that it “undermines our commitment to the principles of universal accessibility and affordability.”