Canadian university students empty their pockets

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StatsCan finds tuition rose eight per cent and additional fees increased over the last two years

Tannara Yelland
CUP Prairies and Northern Bureau Chief

SASKATOON (CUP) — As universities try to balance their budgets in the face of a sluggish economy, Canadian university students have seen their tuition go up by eight per cent over the last two years.

A four per cent increase for the 2010-11 year was followed by another 4.3 per cent hike this year, according to a recent Statistics Canada study. The Canadian average for undergraduate tuition is now $5,366. Ontario students, who pay $6,640 on average, pay the highest tuition in the country, while Quebec undergrads enjoy the lowest tuition in the nation, paying an average of $2,519. Students in Newfoundland and Labrador, where tuition fees have been frozen since 2003-04, are paying an average of $2,649.

In Alberta, tuition is nominally capped to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), meaning it increased by about two per cent for the 2011-12 year. Average fees for full-time undergrads in that province sit at $5,662.

“However, that number is misleading,” said University of Alberta students’ union vice-president of external affairs Farid Iskandar. “Alberta has the highest mandatory non-instructional fees levied on students in the country: they’re $1,399.”

While Alberta has the highest non-tuition fees, students in New Brunswick have the largest increase over last year’s non-instructional fees for both graduates and undergraduates. Compulsory non-tuition fees went up for undergraduates by 21.5 per cent over last year, rising to $430. For graduate students, non-instructional fees went up by 17.6 per cent.

The national average for compulsory fees went up 5.5 per cent for undergrads. Graduate students in Nova Scotia were the only students in the nation to see a decline in compulsory fees – they went down by 7.5 per cent.

While Canadian undergrads are paying more each year, they are still significantly better off than either their international-student counterparts or graduate students. International students, who represent a rapidly growing portion of the student population, pay an average of $17,571 in tuition – up 9.5 per cent from two years ago.

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