With Ontario’s tuition framework set to be revised in the near future, OUSA thought it might be prudent to compare Ontario’s tuition framework with similar regulations in other provinces. After analyzing each province’s regulations, we have some serious concerns about a continuation of Ontario’s current regime of 5 per cent average tuition increases per year. Namely, that it will make Ontario a far less affordable and competitive study destination than the other provinces in Canada.
This year, Ontario has had the second-highest annual rate of increase in overall student tuition, after Quebec. Our rate of tuition growth is currently 1.5% higher than the national average, which presents a serious problem when combined with the fact that Ontario already has Canada’s highest tuition costs.
Newfoundland continued its tuition freeze this year, which will soon earn the province the distinction of having the lowest tuition in Canada. Quebec contrasts Newfoundland substantially with a relatively high rate of increase, caused by the government’s controversial plan to allow increases of up to $325 peryear. Given that Quebec’s tuition fees averaged $2,519 this past year, a $325 per-year increase translates to a 7 to 11% increase over the course of the next five years.
It is worth noting that two provinces, Alberta and Manitoba, have policies that match tuition increases to the rate of inflation. Alberta’s tuition regulations are set in legislation created in 2006, which also governs ancillary fee growth. Manitoba made the decision to make this change in 2012.
If current tuition policies across the country do not change substantially over the next half-decade, Ontario’s high rate of increase and high tuition will mean Ontario universities are substantially more expensive than those of other provinces. Considering the fact that Ontario tuition is already the highest in the country, each tuition increase represents a larger annual jump in price than any other province. This will be disastrous for Ontario’s overall national competitiveness in the coming years.
If the rest of Canada can sustain Post-Secondary Education with lower increases, why can’t Ontario?
In 2016-2017, average undergraduate tuition will be approximately $8,475 if current growth rates are allowed to continue. New Brunswick will have the second highest tuition, averaging $6,779. In other words, Ontario will be nearly $1,700 more expensive than any other province in Canada. The situation gets worse if another five years go by with no change; Ontario will be the first province to breach $10,000 in average undergraduate tuition, while the second most-expensive province will be nearly $3,000 less.
The cost of these increases will not only be borne by Ontario students. Governments hoping to trim deficits will find the current tuition framework a poor value proposition in the long run. If 5% increases remain, the benefit provided by the recent 30%-off Ontario Tuition Grant will be completely eroded by the 2017/2018 year, when projected average net tuition for students that qualify for the grant will equal $6,766. Students that don’t qualify for the grant could be paying nearly $8,900. Furthermore, high tuition costs will incentivize greater use of public student financial assistance. When the Ontario government’s commitment to keep the Ontario Student Opportunities Grant is taken into account, the prospect of having more students in the system with higher levels of need will place increased strain on Ontario’s finances.
OUSA will continue to advocate for a tuition framework that works for students and Ontario as a whole. Last year, we outlined many of our concerns with current regulations in Tomorrow’s Tuition. Among these arguments are the impacts of tuition on accessibility, affordability, student debt, student employment, and cost sharing. Sharp tuition increases are, at best, a short-term solution to long-standing issues in university finance. Students ask that governments work to control institutional costs and fund universities at a rate that allows Ontario to lower the rate of increase. To ignore this task will cost us all in the long run.
Brian Belman and Chris Martin
OUSA Research Intern & OUSA Director of Research