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Tuition on the rise, but for some programs more than others

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Across the country, university tuition fees are spiralling upward faster than the cost of living, meaning students are now paying more than ever for a postsecondary education.

That’s the conclusion of a recently released Statistics Canada report which compares tuition increases at universities nation-wide.

The report shows an average increase of 4.1 per cent in undergraduate tuition fees since last year. The total rise over the past decade is 135.4 per cent. Graduate fees have increased just over 11 per cent from last year, with Ontario graduate students paying the second highest fees in the country.

Professional fees have also risen dramatically. Across the country, law school tuition jumped 14.7 per cent and medical school fees went up 8.1 per cent from last year.

The findings of the report are causing an uproar among groups such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which represents nearly 30,000 academic employees nation-wide.

“Canada’s universities are in danger of returning to their elitist roots as tuition fees spiral out of control,” said Victor Catano, CAUT president. “We need to attract the best and brightest, not just those that can afford the sticker price.”

In response, U of T vice-president and provost Shirley Neuman said the report emphasized aggregate figures that were not specific to U of T.

“The majority of U of T undergraduates enroll in the Faculty of Arts and Science. The increase in tuition in Arts and Science over last year is 1.94 per cent. It is also 1.94 per cent in Nursing and in the Bachelor of Education program,” she said.

Since last year, the U of T medical school has incurred a 5 per cent tuition increase and fees have risen by 16.7 per cent at the Faculty of Law. Dentistry students will also be paying 12 per cent more than last year.

Neuman said the level of tuition increase depends on the nature of a particular program. “Tuition increases are very modest in programs with comparatively low aggregate costs and higher in programs that are very expensive…. Higher tuition costs are also associated with programs in which students generally go on to earn handsome incomes.”

“Costs of education go up every year rather more than does the general rate of inflation,” she added. “This is because universities are subject not only to all the usual contributors to inflation…but also several large costs that are not part of the calculation of inflation and always exceed the rate of inflation.”

The issue of rising tuition is an important one for Christopher Collins, president of the Graduate Students’ Union “I think we have to place a lot of the blame for the tuition increases on the Canadian and Ontario governments,’ he said. “I don’t think the increases are necessary and I think we need to focus mostly on the government…many other things have increased while transfer payments to universities have not.”

Looking ahead to potential future tuition increases, Collins said, “Unless we can work together with the administration and the Ontario government to increase funding for universities in Ontario, I can’t see any changes.”