Tuition in Canada is higher than it has ever been, and tomorrow, it’ll be even higher. In the last decade, tuition has risen 40%. Furthermore, the average Canadian student graduates with more than $25,000 of debt; I wish I could say this surprised me. During the four and half years it took to complete my undergraduate, tuition increased by $40 per course; now that may not seem significant, but let’s look at the math (everyone’s favourite subject). Typically, to graduate in four years, a student would enroll in 5 courses per semester or, in my case, 4 per semester and attempt to make up for it later by enrolling in 6 (not recommended). To clarify, I am not advocating the completion of an undergraduate degree in 4 years; we all move at different speeds, and encounter different life circumstances which may interfere with our studies. We are individuals. But I digress – let’s look at a scenario: Raquel the undergraduate student studying engineering (we will incorporate the $40 increase per course in our scenario). Raquel enrolled in 5 courses her first semester; continuing on this path, Raquel will pay an additional $400 a year due to tuition inflation. That is almost enough for one month’s rent; though at that price, you’ll likely be renting a basement suite, with two others, from a landlord who lives upstairs and is unfamiliar with the concept of privacy (Ah, college life). The rising cost of housing is a whole other issue.
Now, back to our scenario, the additional $400 per year equates to $1600 over the course of a 4-year degree. Our scenario only shows tuition inflation over a 4-year period, and references one many Canadian post-secondary institutions. The average cost of tuition in 1990-1991 was $1,464 and is expected to rise to $7,437 in 2016-2017. If Raquel would have attended post-secondary in 1990, she would’ve payed $5,973 less for a year’s tuition than she would today; therefore, the average cost of a 4-year degree is $23,892 more expensive than it was 30 years ago. Is it a coincidence that number resembles the average amount of debt ($25,000) a Canadian student graduates with today? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps it illustrates the average cost of an undergraduate degree is $23,892 too expensive- it depends on who you’re asking .Who is to blame? In the 1960’s and 1970’s, 90% of post-secondary costs were subsidized by government, today, that number has dropped to an astounding 57%. Now, that doesn’t excuse the behaviour of greedy post-secondary institutions who appear to be familiarizing themselves with academic capitalism. Academic capitalism refers to the ambition of post-secondary institutions to acquire profit; thus, more akin to corporation than a social institution. My personal opinion on the matter? I think tuition should be…wait for it… here it comes… almost there… free. Why should education have a cost? This is by no means an unfamiliar concept; tuition-free post-secondary institutions are seen in many European states: Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Slovenia, and others I’m sure I’ve forgotten. This makes me question whether the barrier to free tuition is political will. A popular argument against free-tuition holds, which may have been relevant in the past, that post-secondary is not compulsory. Ludicrous, as maybe previous generations could have gotten by without post-secondary education; however, according to the federal government, an estimated 75% of new jobs will require post-secondary in the approaching decade It seems the undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma. In 2014, the unemployment rate among high school graduates was a mere 1.7% points higher than university graduates. Is the masters then the new bachelors?
As I embark on a master’s degree, paying a high tuition I’d rather not disclose (let’s just say it’s enough to require a student loan) again, I can’t help but look at those younger than myself and ponder: How much more will they have to pay?