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GiveLife.ca

    
Arts tuition increases levelling off, statistics reveal
BY JEFF GRAY
Saturday, August 28, 2001

After skyrocketing for the past decade, undergraduate arts tuition in Canada rose just 2.1 per cent in 2001-2002, the smallest average increase in any year since the 1970s, Statistics Canada said yesterday.

But despite the good news for students, undergraduates heading to campuses across Canada this fall will still pay twice the tuition that students paid in 1991, the federal number-crunching agency said.

"The damage has already been done, even if the increases are slowing," said Ian Boyko, national chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students.

Tuition fees across Canada shot upward throughout the 1990s: 126 per cent from 1990 to 2000, at a rate six times that of inflation, Statscan said. The increases have slowed this year to levels not seen since the 1978-79 academic year, when tuition rose just 1.4 per cent.

This year, undergraduate arts students will pay an average of $3,453 in tuition, almost double the $1,714 charged in 1991.

The 2.1-per-cent increase follows trend toward slower increases in arts tuition, Statscan says. In 2000-2001, undergraduate arts fees rose by only 3.1 per cent.

But the story varies from province to province, Robert Giroux, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said.

"It's a very uneven situation across the country," Mr. Giroux said, pointing out that some provinces have frozen tuition or reduced it -- British Columbia, Newfoundland, Manitoba and Quebec -- but others have had big hikes.

Increased federal transfer payments to the provinces have largely gone to finance health care, Mr. Giroux said, but may have taken the pressure off provincial coffers.

Students in Quebec pay "less that half the tuition fees of those in other provinces in virtually all fields of study," Statscan said, although those from other provinces attending Quebec universities pay higher rates, and face a 7.4-per-cent boost this academic year.

Undergraduate arts tuition will jump 12.4 per cent in Saskatchewan, the biggest hike in any province. But fees will actually sink by 10 per cent in Newfoundland and 2.2 per cent in British Columbia.

In Ontario, average undergraduate arts tuition remains the second highest in the country at $4,062, but this year's 2.3-per-cent hike is well below the province's usual increases, which have averaged 10.1 per cent a year for the past five years, Statscan said.

Average undergraduate arts tuition in Nova Scotia was the highest in Canada: $4,732, up 4.9 per cent from last year.

Mr. Boyko, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Windsor, said the smaller average increase in undergraduate arts tuition was little consolation for students heading into graduate school or professional programs. Those programs already cost more and are going up.

Average tuition for graduate students will rise 9.8 per cent, to $4,360. Medical students will pay 9.9 per cent more ($6,654); law students will pay 8.2 per cent more ($4,355). Dentistry students will pay 7.8 per cent more; their tuition will average $8,491.

And while many such students stand to make high incomes after they graduate, Mr. Boyko said demanding such large tuition fees up front may dissuade students from modest backgrounds from pursuing higher education.

"There is a sticker shock for students who aren't used to shelling out $6,000 for a service," he said.

The students federation has long called for a policy of zero tuition, as in many European countries, but Mr. Boyko acknowledged that this was unlikely in Canada any time soon. However, he said, "we should definitely work toward a point where there are no fees."


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