In the early to mid-1990s, the federal government made
massive cuts to post-secondary education transfer payments
to the provinces. Most provinces passed on the cost
of those cuts to students in the form of higher tuition
fees. At the time, the Federation articulated the view
that rising fees would result in reduced access to post-secondary
education. Now, in 2003, a wide variety of studies substantiate
the view that an increase in fees precipitates declining
rates of participation among low and middle income Canadians.
In 2002 Statistics Canada reported a pronounced drop
in participation rates from students from low and middle-income
families. For the purposes of this study the cut off
for low and middle income is household income of less
than $60,000. The decline in participation rates, recorded
in 1999, was the first recorded decrease since Statistics
Canada began tracking this data in 1965. In addition,
several studies have been undertaken to examine the
deregulation of tuition fees in Ontario. In each study,
the investigators found a startling decline of students
from lower and middle-income homes.
In response, the Federation has focused much of its
campaigns and government relations work during the past
five yeas on halting tuition fee increases and restoring
federal transfer payments for post-secondary education.
The Federations efforts have met with some success.
Tuition fees in British Columbia were frozen between
1996 and 2002. In Newfoundland and Labrador, fees for
all public post-secondary students have been frozen
since 1999. In addition, fees for undergraduate and
graduate university students were reduced by 10% each
year in 2001/2002 and 2002/2003, with a further 5% reduction
promised for 2003/2004. In Manitoba, fees were reduced
by 10% in 2000/2001 and have remained frozen since.
Tuition fees in Québec have been frozen (for
Québec residents) for close to a decade.
In addition, the federal government has ceased cutting
and has begun restoring transfer payments.
Unfortunately, some provinces such as Ontario and Nova
Scotia have continued to increase fees. BC recently
deregulated tuition fees resulting in fee hikes of up
to 100% and Ontario has deregulated graduate, professional,
and some college fees. In addition, the hard-fought
freezes and reductions that have been won in some provinces
are under attack by those who would have students shoulder
more of the funding burden.