CUPE Local 1356 Blog

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1356. We have three Collective Agreements as Local 1356, 1356-01, and 1356-02. The membership is comprised of the full-time and part-time workers of York University the Local website is at This Blog will include Local information and information garnered from sources other Universities, Colleges, Post Secondary/Tertiary Education and news sources supplying information.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Time to rethink Canadian university tuition fees

Here is an opinion from Institute for Research on Public Policy begging
for a letter to the editor--any takers?

Time to rethink Canadian university tuition fees

orginally from: The Review (Niagara Falls)
Fri 07 Apr 2006

Byline: James Ferrabee

With the first sign of spring, which coincides by chance this year with the first few weeks of a new government, the premiers wanted to grab Stephen Harper's attention when they met him recently to get him to commit more money to post-secondary education. For the premiers, pushing the cause of post-secondary education funding
ahead of health funding represents a significant policy shift. It doesn't mean their financial woes over health spending are settled. But they are signalling that it is not just the health of Canadians that is important. The health of the economy is also at stake, unless more funds are poured into post-secondary education.

Ten years ago the federal government of Jean Chretien, in its zeal to trim the deficit, chopped about $2.2 billion from post-secondary funding. The premiers want to get that funding back as a minimum, then raise the price to the $4.9 billion needed to keep the post-secondary education system running.

With the exception of a few provinces - Alberta being one - post-secondary education is alarmingly underfunded. In Quebec alone, universities estimate the annual shortfall to be $350 million. But also with few exceptions, the provinces are ducking the issue of tuition fees. The reason is the premiers don't want to alienate students
by raising fees.

In effect, provinces like Ontario and Quebec both want low tuition fees and more funding from Ottawa. In this respect, the Quebec government sets the worst example. Its secondary college system, called CEGEP, is free to all students. University fees are set at under $1,700 annually, about one-third those in Ontario. Quebec charges about $3,000 for out-of-province students. Ontario began allowing tuition fees to rise to meet costs, but in the past few years it has capped, also bowing to political pressure. The issue of tuition fees is not easily resolved, because it carries a political cost for provincial governments. But raising the fees - in Quebec for example - by $1,000 a year as a start, would bring in $250 million. And the cost to Quebec students would still be about 60 per cent of that charged to Ontario students.
Whether they are in Quebec, Nova Scotia or British Columbia, Canadian students pay anywhere from one-fifth to one-tenth the tuition American students pay in their state-subsidized universities.

For example, at the University of Vermont - one of the smallest states in the union - the tuition fee for state residents is $10,226 US. Out-of-state students are charged $23,000 US and more for room and board. At the University of Iowa, the cost of tuition for a student living in the state is about $5,500 US. An out-of-state student is charged $16,000 US. At the University of Washington, the in-state tuition is $5,600 US and for out-state students it is $18,000 US.

The tuition at private U.S. universities like Middlebury, in Vermont and Harvard is more than $30,000 US. Although the tuition fees at American universities seem harsh, state and private universities have extensive scholarship programs that cover many
students who cannot afford the cost. The wealthiest Americans also fund their universities generously. One example is the recent announcement from New York University and Columbia University that they would each receive a $200 million donation from a private foundation for specialized research programs.

The premiers are right to put post-secondary education at the top of the national agenda. They are right to try and pry more money out of the federal government for post-secondary education. And, yes, the federal government needs to replenish the funding for universities that was taken away a decade ago. But the issue of raising
tuition fees cannot be avoided, because higher tuition fees would go a long way toward solving the problem of underfunding at Canadian universities. If the provincial governments face up to the need for higher tuition fees, their arguments for getting more money out of the federal government will be very much stronger.
James Ferrabee writes a monthly column for the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Reach him at

© 2006 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.


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