Students in Ontario pay the highest tuition fees compared to the other provinces in Canada. Ontario’s undergraduate students pay 29 per cent more compared to the Canadian average while graduate students pay 41 per cent more. In the last 20 years, college tuition fees in Ontario outpaced inflation by 435 per cent, while undergraduate tuition fees outpaced inflation by 601 per cent.
Since 2006, under the provincial Reaching Higher Plan, tuition fees in the province have increased by five per cent annually, on average. This is a cumulative average increase of 41 per cent, while other programs have experienced increases of up to 71 per cent. At the same time, the average student debt for a four-year undergraduate degree has risen to $37,000 in combined government loans and private debt.
Tuition fees remain the most significant barrier that students face when trying to access post-secondary education. This regressive flat tax not only prevents many middle- and lower-income people from getting a college or university education, but it also restricts the educational choices made by those students who are fortunate enough to be able to attend.
High tuition fees have a discriminatory impact on racialized students because of systemic racism and economic marginalization. Due to the high upfront cost of education, compounded with lower average incomes, higher rates of poverty and other systemic factors, racialized students stand to pay more, incur more debt and get less out of their education.
Financial barriers have become the excuse for the creation of a costly and ineffective bureaucracy to administer a loans system that has transferred the cost of post-secondary education from government to students themselves. While post-graduate earnings have been on the decline for years, tuition fees and average student debt has been on the rise. These realities exacerbate existing social inequalities, stifle the creativity and mobility of Ontario’s youth, and delay the ability of new graduates to fully participate in the economy.
The provincial government through a tuition fee framework regulates tuition fees in Ontario. The current framework allows domestic tuition fees to increase by as much as three per cent for most programs and five per cent for professional, graduate and high demand programs, with no regulation in place for international student tuition fees. The current framework has been in effect since May 2013 and will expire in 2017.
The Federation has long called for the progressive elimination of tuition fees with the ultimate goal of free education. In 2012, the Federation resolved to create and implement a provincial action plan to mobilize students across the province focused on a long-term strategy to advocate for more funding into our institutions and reduce tuition fees.
The Federation’s most recent campaign on tuition fees, Fight the Fees, has been established in preparation for the 2018 provincial elections, as students want all political leaders to make funding for post secondary education an election issue.