Tuition fee increases further limit access to higher education--report

August 19, 2004

OTTAWA--Manitoba takes the lead and Nova Scotia remains in last place in Missing Pieces: An alternative guide to Canadian post-secondary education. In the fifth year of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' comparative analysis of higher education in each province, BC continues to lose ground, and Quebec slips back to second place.

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 a number of sub-indicators, providing a more complete overview of the state of higher education in each province.

Nova Scotia, in 10th place for the second year in a row, 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. Provincial expenditures per fulltime student are also among the lowest in the country.

PEI fell significantly in the rankings this year--and is now tied for 9th with Ontario--due in no small part to declining levels of public support for higher education in that province, negatively impacting PEI's accountability score. Ontario maintains last place in accountability due to high levels of private- and student funding for PSE. High tuition fees also result in a poor accessibility ranking.

At the other end of the scale, Manitoba slips by Quebec to claim the top position in the rankings, leading the provinces in equity and quality. Manitoba claims the highest level of provincial expenditure on PSE as a share of total provincial expenditures, and one of the greatest increases in expenditure per FTE student enrolment.

Newfoundland maintains a 3rd place position largely due to continued commitment to improving accessibility in higher education. Increased levels of government support and low levels of funding from private sources help maintain a high accountability rank in Newfoundland as well.

In British Columbia, provincial education policies have been instrumental in that province's decline in the rankings, from 1st place when Missing Pieces commenced, to 6th. The end of the tuition fee freeze in British Columbia has had a significant impact on that province's accessibility performance, while dwindling levels of provincial funding have resulted in a declining quality score.

"In the fifth year of this project, we have seen commitments 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. As Canadian universities and colleges look to other sources of funding to compensate for inadequate provincial and federal money, inequities between institutions, programs and students are reinforced; quality, equity, accessibility and public accountability are compromised, and students suffer," conclude the authors.


Missing Pieces V: An Alternative Guide to Canadian Post-secondary Education is available on the CCPA web site at

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications officer, 613-563-1341 x 306.