The report also shows that some changes must be made in order to make student financial assistance more affordable, by reducing loan interest rates for example.
Denis Herard also stated for the Edmonton Journal reporters: "We're on track to implementing the new tuition fee policy that will be in place and working for the students in the fall of 2007."
However, the new policy must be approved by the cabinet and other levels of government. Last year, premier Ralph Klein unveiled a tuition freeze as a "centennial gift" and promised to come up with the most "affordable" tuition policy in Canada.
These recommendations simply reinforce the status quo," said David Cournoyer, chairman of the Council of Alberta University Students and a vice-president of the University of Alberta Students' Union, about the proposals and recommendations in the steering committee's report.
Both the Advanced Education Minister, Denis Herard, and the Premier, Ralph Klein, have faced strong criticism: "Raj Pannu, NDP Advanced Education critic, said it's clear Herard has yet to line up cabinet support even to limit fee increases. As for the minister's decision to consult further before endorsing other recommendations in the report, Pannu accused him of 'foot-dragging'." In his defense, Herard stated that students and their parents "tend to overestimate the cost of post-secondary education and underestimate its benefit." However, the Advanced Education Minister decided to re-engineer the system of loans, grants and other assistance for the students. He promised the suggestions will be based on consultations with post-secondary institutions, students and other interested parties.
A study conducted by Statistics Canada "shows a consistent trend since 1990 of tuition rising faster than the rate of inflation." In the past fifteen years tuition rose at an annual average rate of 7.7 per cent, almost four times the average rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Students who cannot afford to pay higher tuition fees might want to transfer to schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In these provinces tuition fees remain virtually unchanged compared to those of the previous year.
A similar situation is in Quebec, where due to a tuition freeze for Quebec residents that has kept fees at less than half the national average since the late 1990s, undergraduate students will continue to pay the lowest tuition fees in the country.
The opposite situation is in Nova Scotia, where undergraduate students will pay the highest tuition fees up 3.9 per cent this year to $6,571.
In the Gazette, "Ontario gets it right on tuition fees" article reveals that "in Quebec, undergraduate tuition hasn't changed since 1994, and will not change before the next election," Jean Charest's government has pledged. The article shows an opposite position, as "the basic undergrad fee of $1,851 should have climbed past $2,300 merely to account for inflation, to say nothing of universities' capital costs, maintenance needs, enrollment increases, and so on." In Quebec, the government states not having new money for universities, which are suffering from years of underfunding. In Quebec alone, universities estimate the annual shortfall to be $350 million. As a result, Quebec and other provinces want both low tuition fees and more funding from Ottawa, so that students will not be driven away by raising tuition fees.
CanWest News Service's Sarah Schmidt reveals that "student leaders say the huge discrepancies in tuition across the country speak to the varied ways provinces dealt with the billions of dollars cut from federal transfer payments for post-secondary education." Due to the lack of a national education strategy, provinces follow two distinct policy directions.
The StatsCan report is contradicted by the Educational Policy Institute in the report entitled "Beyond the Sticker Price: A Closer Look at Canadian University Tuition Fees." They consider the StatsCan report to be "an inadequate tool for measuring what students and families actually pay to attend university because it fails to take into account education tax credits and, in some cases, grants." The study also claims that once inflation and tax benefits are taken into account, average costs are up by 25 per cent in the past ten years.
Liberal leadership contender Ken Dryden wants to overhaul the student loans system by reviving a controversial idea scrapped by the Liberals more than a decade ago," Sarah Schmidt reveals. Dryden unveiled his "Big Canada" platform in Ottawa on September 05-2006, highlighting education as a key policy plank for the country.
Ken Dryden is reviving the idea that Lloyd Axworthy proposed in 1994, that is to replace the Canada Student Loan Program and federal transfers to the provinces for higher education with an income-contingent, loan-repayment scheme as part of the Liberal government's comprehensive review of Canada's social safety net. Lisa Jolicoeur, the campaign spokeswoman, stated that Dryden's proposal is better than the criticized Axworthy proposal which was linked to increased tuition and funding cutbacks. However, Dryden's idea is also strongly criticized by Duncan Cameron, visiting professor of Canadian studies at Simon Fraser University and research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Cameron stated that "it also gives governments an excuse not to fund universities." The idea was also criticized by Ian Boyko of the Canadian Federation of Students, who said "it's naive to think this wouldn't result in tremendous upward pressure on tuition fees."
Although Quebec enjoys one of the lowest tuition fees level in the country, the universities are allowed to charge additional fees for administrative purposes or others. Compulsory additional fees are allowed for both public and private schools.
Among students, concerns over rising tuition fees have diminished due to the government's tuition freeze.
The steering committee "disappointed students on the tuition front, calling for modest and steady fee increases instead of the deep cuts students were given reason to expect." A report conducted by Statistics Canada revealed that in B.C. this year's hike will be 1.9 per cent.
However, students don't just resign themselves. Members of the Canadian Federation of Students across B.C. are organizing a campaign to reduce tuition fees. Their demands concern ensuring that "the B.C. government legislates a multi-year tuition fee reduction beginning in fall 2006," ensuring that "all money transferred to the provinces from the recent Federal budget goes directly to reducing tuition fees" and ensuring that "the federal government restores $4 billion in post-secondary education funding."
Apparently, the number of students enrolled in Quebec's CEGEPs for the current school year is finally up, for the first time in a decade. The negative side of this situation is that the increased number of students "will further strain the resources of a CEGEP system already stretched to near-braking by chronic underfunding." The provincial government allocated $80 million new funding for CEGEPs, spread over the coming three years. This amount of money is not even close to the $250 million claimed to be needed by the Federation des cegeps.
All in all, the important fact is that for ten years, between 1990/1991 and 2000/2001 academic years, tuition rose 126.2 per cent, six times faster than the 20.6 per cent rise of the inflation rate during the same period.
The highest tuition per program is paid by Nova Scotia Undergraduate art students, followed by resident of Ontario. However, the highest tuition hike in Canada was "suffered" by British Columbia undergraduate students from 2002/2003 to 2003/2004 academic years. The increase was of 30.4 per cent. This massive increase took place due to the British Columbia Liberal Government, who lifted the tuition freeze, therefore increasing tuition fees.
Quebec seems to have the lowest tuition fees level in the country and has had seven consecutive tuition freezes since 1996/1997 academic year. On the other hand, undergraduate students from other provinces are charged almost four times the amount of money charged for Quebec resident students, in order to prevent over-population of Quebec.
1. "Historical and social content. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuition.
2."Education in Quebec. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Qu%C3%A9bec.
3."University tuition fees." The Daily. Statistics Canada. (September 2006).
4. Thorne, Duncan. "Minister promises to link tuition fees with cost of living."
The Edmonton Journal. (June, 2006).
5. Fitzpatrick, Meagan. "Undergrads face higher tuition this year: StatsCan."
CanWest News Service. (September 2006).
6. "Ontario gets it right on tuition fees." The Gazette. (March 2006).
7. Ferrabee, James. "Raise university tuition fees." The Edmonton Journal. (April 2006).
8. Schmidt, Sarah. "Tuition trouble depend on your province, StatsCan says."