Tuition fee increases further limit access to higher education

May 1, 2003

OTTAWA--Nova Scotia's record in post-secondary education has dropped that province to last place in Missing Pieces: An alternative guide to Canadian post-secondary education. In the fourth year of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' comparative analysis of higher education in each province, BC continues to lose ground, while Newfoundland continues to improve for the second year in a row.

Missing Pieces, an annual report by Denise Doherty-Delorme and Erika Shaker, ranks provinces according to their level of commitment to post-secondary education across four indicators: equity, quality, public accountability and accessibility. Each indicator is comprised of six to eight sub-indicators, providing a more complete overview of the state of higher education in each province.

Nova Scotia, in 10th place for the first time, has the highest university tuition fees in the country, comprising more of the PSE budget than in any other province, while government grants make up the least amount. Nova Scotia also responds poorly to the financial needs of its students; in spite of its tuition fees and a growing crisis in student debt, the government eliminated the loans forgiveness program in 2000. Provincial expenditures per fulltime student are also among the lowest in the country.

At the other end of the scale, Quebec maintains its 1st place rank for the second year in a row, leading the provinces in accountability and accessibility, largely as a result of its high level of public support for PSE and the lowest tuition fees in the country. However, in spite of these high levels of public support, there is a growing amount of private funding in Quebec PSE, which is of concern to students and faculty in that province.

Newfoundland's continued commitment to improving accessibility in higher education account for that province's improvement to 3rd place, tied with Manitoba. Increased levels of government support and low levels of funding from private sources help maintain a high accountability rank in Newfoundland as well.

The end of the tuition fee freeze in British Columbia has had a direct result in that province's performance on both the accountability and accessibility ranking, dropping that province from 2nd to 4th, down from 1st place just three years ago.

"In the fourth year of this project, we have seen discrepancies in the provision of higher education vary widely from province to province. And while we have witnessed some extremely positive measures--Newfoundland's 25% rollback in tuition fees over three years, for example--for the vast majority of students PSE continues to be less accessible and less public. Canadian university and college campuses are less and less a microcosm of wider society as inequities continue to be reinforced between provinces, between institutions, between programs, and between students," conclude the authors.