Undergrad tuition increase capped at three percent per year SEBASTIAN GREENHOLTZ
Since 2006, Ontario undergraduate tuition has been allowed to rise by five per cent yearly. This year – and for the next four years – the Ontario government has stipulated that undergraduate tuition will be capped at a maximum three per cent increase per year; graduate tuition will be capped at five percent per year, reduced from eight percent.

“What we announced last week was a $1200 savings for students over the next five years,” Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, told the newspaper.

Under that new framework, the most expensive tuition cost for 2013-2014 will be $5,838.04 for full-time U of T Arts & Science undergraduate students. The University of Toronto considers its programs to be of good value compared to other jurisdictions, comparing its fees to those of similar institutions in the UK and the US, as outlined in its 2011-12 Tuition Fee Schedule for Publicly Funded Programs.

While average Ontario tuition might compare equally to its international counterparts, Ontario students still pay the highest average tuition in the country. Full-time tuition costs for Arts and Science (BA&Sc) at McGill University ran $2,167.80 in 2012-2013 (for Quebec students) and full-time undergraduate arts or science tuition at the University of British Columbia is calculated at $4,700.40.

Duguid argues that “some of the provinces have artificially kept tuition down by reducing their quality of education.” Duguid also notes that Ontario “can’t pretend that the government is in anything but a challenging fiscal position right now.”

In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the University of Toronto’s total revenue was $2.4 billion, of which student tuition made up $847.4 million and government grants accounted for $702.2 million. The University of Toronto brands itself as a “public research university,” but government funding only accounts for 30 per cent of the university’s revenue, and student tuition, donors, and “services and sales” front the remainder.

Referring to the Queen’s Park legislative building visible from his office window in University College, Paul Hamel, a biology and human rights professor at the University of Toronto, explains, “someone made a choice about what would be in the public sphere and what would be in the private sphere, and the choice was that students should be there to offset the burden of higher education.”

And offset we do. In light of multi-billion dollar federal budget surpluses for most of the last decade, the Canadian Federation of Students highlight that federal-to-provincial cash transfers for post-secondary education have decreased by 50 per cent as measured as a proportion of GDP during the same time period.

Ontario universities are particularly strained, as the Ontario government currently contributes the lowest per-student funding towards post-secondary education out of all provincial governments.

“Ontario students pay the highest tuition in the country for one very straightforward reason,” U of T provost Cheryl Misak told the newspaper. “The Government of Ontario contributes the lowest funding per student in the country.”

A guideline for Publicly-Assisted Universities published by the Ministry of Training, College and Universities stipulates two provincial conditions for permitting tuition increases: there must be improvements to quality of education and no student with financial need be turned away under stipulations by the Student Access Guarantee.

If these requirements are not fulfilled as tuition costs continue to rise - albeit by a lower percent per year - students must understand that it is upon their headcount that meagre government funding is allocated at all. Professor Hamel hopes that students realize “the amount of power you have here. You guys are the crack-cocaine of this place.”

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: A look into why Ontario students pay the most compared to their provincial peers
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