Soaring tuition costs force students to work more hours: analysis

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes significant increases between 1975 and 2013

Many university students have to work double, triple and in some cases six times the number of hours in minimum-wage jobs to afford tuition costs compared to 40 years ago, according to Statistics Canada data analyzed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

According to the data, which track tuition costs from 1975 to 2013, the average number of minimum-wage hours needed to pay for an undergraduate degree in 1975 was 230. That number went up nearly 2½ times to 570 by 2013.

Professional faculties have seen the steepest increases. A dentistry student would have had to work 286 hours at a minimum-wage job in 1975 to afford the tuition fee then of $664.

In 2013, that same student had to labour for 1,711 hours to pay annual tuition costs of $17,324.

The national think-tank acquired tuition data from 1975 to 2013 and compiled a database that compares faculty costs, provincial variations and national tuition cost averages.

Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist at the centre who led the project, said while tuition increases are nothing new, this data provides a historical look at how post-secondary policy decisions can affect university affordability in Canada.

“We say to our kids, 'Go to university if you want a good professional degree,' but that’s getting more and more difficult to do,” she said.

Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said today's students have access to a very high-quality education.

“I get concerned when we tell a whole generation of people that you're screwed right out of the gate,” he said.

“I think Canada has an outstanding post-secondary education system.”


Number of work hours, by province

This table shows the number of minimum-wage work hours required to pay for university tuition, broken down by province.
19752013Increase (%)
National average230570148%
(Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)



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