Provinces pursuing two-tier tuition fee policies: study

September 10, 2014


OTTAWA—The average cost of tuition and compulsory fees for Canadian undergraduate students will rise by almost 13% over the next four years, from $6,885 this fall to an estimated $7,755 in 2017-18, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study looks at trends in tuition and compulsory fees in Canada since 1993, projects fees for each province for the next four years, and ranks the provinces on affordability for median- and low-income families using a Cost of Learning Index.

“As fees continue to increase, almost without exception, provincial policies have shifted to a de facto two-tiered fee structure that sees in-province students charged less than out-of-province students for the same degree. It’s undercut the principle of universality, as students find themselves in very different financial situations depending on the province in which they reside and where they choose to pursue their education,” explains Education Director Erika Shaker.

Additionally, other compulsory fees—which are largely unregulated—continue to increase on top of tuition fees as universities look for other creative ways to compensate for inadequate public funding.

According to the study, Ontario is the province with the highest fees and will see its tuition and other fees climb from $8,474 this fall to an estimated $9,483 in 2017-18. Newfoundland and Labrador remains the province with the lowest tuition and other compulsory fees of $2,871 this fall, rising to an estimated $2,888 in 2017-18.

The study’s Cost of Learning Index demonstrates the role that provincial governments play in ensuring university education is more—or less—affordable for median and low-income families, particularly when household debt is at an all-time high and incomes have been stagnant for over two decades. Nationally, university education has become, on average, 20% less affordable for median families in Canada since 1993.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is the most affordable province for university education for both median- and low-income families, while New Brunswick is the least affordable for median-income families and Alberta is the least affordable for low-income families,” says David Macdonald, CCPA Senior Economist and co-author of the study. “However, if current trends continue, Saskatchewan is projected to become the least affordable province for both low-and median-income families.”


Tier for Two: Managing the Optics of Provincial Tuition Fee Policies is available on the CCPA website:

For more information contact Trish Hennessy at 416-525-4927.