The tuition burden for Ontario families is rising – and regressive

Posted on September 8, 2011 in Education Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – publications.ontario_university_report.gk – Volume 5, Issue 29.
September 7, 2011.    Editor

Data Check:  The tuition burden for Ontario families is rising – and regressive

Families have seen university tuition increase 244 per cent, in real dollars, since 1990, even though incomes have been stagnant.

This means an enormous additional cost burden for most Ontario families, taking months, even years, of additional income to cover it. If a middle-income family devoted every cent of its after-tax income to covering a child’s tuition fees starting this September 1, 2011, its members would have to work until March 14, 2012, to pay for a four-year degree. Back in 1990, the cost would have been covered by the end of November that year.

For professional students, it’s even worse. To support a dentistry student, for example, a lower-income family would have to devote six-and-a-half years of earnings to pay for just the tuition fees.

These figures come from a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Under Pressure: The Impact of Rising Tuition Fees on Ontario Families, sponsored by the Ontario Universities Coalition, of which OCUFA is a member.

The report suggests ways for Ontario to create “a highly-educated populace not overburdened with debt.” For example, the $1.6-billion tax expenditure involved in the 2009 Ontario corporate tax cut could have pared tuition fees back to 1990 levels.  An alternative approach would be to restore a portion of the personal income taxes reduced in 1990s by the Mike Harris government. A $100 additional levy on a family income would reduce tuition levels to 1990 levels.

And if families were taxed an average annual additional $170, university tuition could be eliminated.

This year, the average undergraduate student in Ontario will pay an estimated $6,500 for a year’s tuition, up from $2,500 (in 2011 dollars) in 1990.

For the full report, see

OCUFA responds to CCPA study: “An equitable, accessible and excellent university system”

“The CCPA report shows that Ontario’s high tuition fees are disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income families,” said OCUFA President Constance Adamson. “This regressive policy is making it harder for young Ontarians to afford a university education and to access the many benefits that higher learning provides.”

The report shows that while higher-income families can cover soaring university costs quickly, it takes middle and lower-income Ontarians many more months – and sometimes years –to pay for their child’s education.

This is up dramatically from the early 1990s and reflects the huge increase in tuition fees over the last two decades. Ontario now has the highest tuition fees in Canada.

The report also demonstrates that, contrary to the opinion of many policymakers, a high-quality, affordable university system can be sustained by public funding. It outlines a few simple policy changes that would help freeze, or even reduce tuition fees, while ensuring universities have the financial resources they need to provide a world-class learning experience.

“Ontario’s professors and academic librarians want an equitable, accessible and excellent university system,” said Adamson.

She encouraged everyone to visit OCUFA’s campaign website,, to send a message to Ontario’s politicians. “Together, we can make the university system we all deserve,” she said.

More information on the Quality Matters campaign can be found at

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