Ontario Families Squeezed by Rising University Tuition Fees, Report Says

August 31, 2011, 3:50 PM EST


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The cost of a university education in Ontario is a growing financial burden on students and their families, especially for low and middle income families, a new report indicates.

The report entitled 'Under Pressure: The impact of rising tuition fees on Ontario families' examines major financial shifts that have negatively impacted students and families over the past 20 years. It highlights how low and middle income families are increasingly struggling to pay the $6,500 per year price of university tuition and other associated expenses.

"Paying for an expensive university education is a burden that not only falls on individual students, it deeply affects Ontario's parents as well," said David Macdonald, associate researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who prepared the report.

"The combination of record high household debt, stagnating incomes, and steadily rising tuition fees have made it much harder for Ontario families to get their kids through school."

Today, Canadian families have debt equal to 150 per cent of disposable income on average, compared to 93 per cent in 1990, the study shows, which highlights the explosion in housing prices, particularly in urban areas, as a major culprit.

At the same time, low and middle income families make less or about the same in after-tax income compared to what they earned in 1990. During the same period Ontario students have struggled with a 244 per cent real tuition rate increase.

"The escalating costs of higher education result in families accumulating even more debt, avoiding making large purchases or putting off saving money for retirement," said Constance Adamson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Government policy must address the financial burden of a university education in Ontario, said Sandy Hudson of the Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario. "Leading up to the provincial election, students and their families expect the political parties to address the issue of cost and the mounting debt that comes with pursuing a university degree," Hudson said.

The study outlines alternatives to increased financial downloading on families including reversing the 2009 Ontario corporate tax cut.

The report was commissioned by the Ontario University Coalition, which is made up of organizations representing students, staff and faculty from the post-secondary education sector. The CAW is a member organization.

To read the complete report, please visit:
http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/under-pressure

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