Provincial policies creating disparities in access to higher education

January 10, 2001

Ottawa---A patchwork quilt of provincial policies is creating massive imbalances in educational opportunity across Canada, according to an annual report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

In its second year, Missing Pieces II: An Alternative Guide to Canadian Post-Secondary Education ranks provinces according to their overall commitment to higher education. The ranking is the product of sub-rankings of provincial performance in four categories; equity, accessibility, quality, and public accountability. Each category has four or five component indicators.

British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba performed best overall. Notable were their efforts to keep higher education affordable.

Ontario was again at the bottom of the ranking, falling even further behind the rest of the pack. Notable in Ontario's deteriorating performance were further tuition fee increases and the abdication of provincial responsibility for higher education to private interests.

Manitoba showed the biggest improvement in its ranking compared to last year--from 6th to 3rd, due mainly to a tuition fee rollback, an increase in provincial expenditure on post-secondary education, and an increase in the youth participation rate.

Alberta and New Brunswick saw their rankings fall (from 5th to 8th and 3rd to 6th, respectively). Striking in both provinces' performances were steep declines in public accountability, reflecting the ceding of provincial responsibility for public education to private sources or individuals.

Nova Scotia's sagging performance this year (3rd to 4th) reflected the declining number of college faculty and declining provincial expenditures on post-secondary education per capita.

According to the report's authors, Erika Shaker and Denise Doherty-Delorme, as federal and many provincial governments continue to move toward cost-recovery-based funding, and as post-secondary education budgets are slashed, inequities among provinces, among institutions, among departments, among communities and among citizens are widening.

"Depending on the provincial government's level of commitment, higher education in many provinces is moving backward from being a basic right of citizenship toward being a privilege available mainly to those in the upper income groups," the authors conclude.

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