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Quebec tuition rises faster than national average

by Archives October 21, 2008

Quebec tuition rates rose one and a half times more, on average, than other provinces’ over the past year.
Statistics Canada released their annual report on tuition rates in Canada earlier this month, measuring increases in average fulltime tuition by province.
The report shows that the average real cost of an undergraduate education in Canada rose by $166 in 2007-2008, a rate of 3.6 per cent. At the same time, Quebec’s average tuition went up by a 5.4 per cent. These totals do not include ancillary fees charged by universities.
At the same time, some provinces saw far lower rates of tuition increases, with fees frozen in Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Only Nova Scotia saw a decrease in tuition, of 2.9 per cent.
According to Patrick Duncan, a researcher at the Educational Policy Institute (EPI), the Statistics Canada report may reflect an overly negative view of tuition in Canada. For Duncan, who co-authored a study entitled, “Beyond the Sticker Shock 2008: A Closer look at Canadian Tuition Fees,” this year’s statistics don’t reflect the benefits available to students in the form of tax credits, nor do they account for inflation.
“Canadian students need more complete information on what’s available to them in terms of credits and rebates available,” said Duncan. “Focusing on tax credits and the money that you get back later [in taxes] is a way of looking at the cost of education with foresight – as someone heading out of school and into the labour market.”
The EPI analyzed the results of the Statistics Canada study, accounting for the effects of inflation, the costs of ancillary fees and the benefits provided by education tax credits. According to the EPI’s study, the average cost of university education in Canada has actually risen by less than two per cent on average for each of the last 10 years. The study goes on to suggest that increased education tax credits passed by the Chrétien and Harper governments can be credited with mitigating the rising up-front cost of university education.
However Ian Boyko, government relations coordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students, said that what is needed is not tax credits, but increased government spending on education. “Tax credits don’t help you pay the rent in September if you don’t get the money until April,” he said. “The EPI wants to perpetrate a spurious argument that everyone who qualifies for a tax credit will end up using it. That’s simply not the case for students who don’t know how to file for these credits in their taxes.”
Duncan said that where tuition has not kept pace with the steadily rising cost of delivering an education, universities have been obliged to find alternative sources of funding.
“Schools have found different ways of coping with the difference between what it costs to deliver education and what students are paying: bond systems, increased alumni funding, or corporate partnerships – but if the costs are out-pacing the money coming in . . . well, that money has to come from somewhere.”
However, Boyko said the government could find the money by reversing tax cuts. “There are endless corporate tax cuts that can and should be reversed,” he said. “These are tax cuts that do nothing to benefit the vast majority of families; tax cuts for corporations.”

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