A new report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows students in Saskatchewan pay higher tuition and fees and graduate with greater debt loads than students in most other Canadian provinces and public universities in the U.S.
The report calls on the government to put an immediate two-year freeze on tuition and fees at the province's universities. During this time period, CCPA Saskatchewan urges the provincial government to undertake a full review of university funding and student financial assistance, similar to ones currently underway in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Saskatchewan students pay more than 15% the national average for tuition and fees," says Professor John Conway, the report's author. "In the last four years undergraduate tuition and fees have increased by 46%, from $3,784 in 1999 to $5,526 this year."
Enrollment in Saskatchewan's universities decreased by 2% between 1999 and 2003. Across Canada, enrollment has increased by 20%. Saskatchewan is the only province where enrollment is decreasing, according to a report last week by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation.
Research shows that 63% of students in Saskatchewan graduate with a median debt of about $20,000, considerably higher than in most other provinces.
One of the most troubling implications of the findings, says Conway, is the lack of access for rural students, lower-income students and families and Aboriginal students.
"One half of Saskatchewan university students live further than commuting distance from either the University of Regina or the University of Saskatchewan," Conway says. "In no other province do half of the students have no choice but to live away from home to attend university. Lower- and middle-income students from rural Saskatchewan simply can not afford the costs."
Conway says that the Saskatchewan government must look to other provincial jurisdictions that have taken action to address the escalating cost of a university education.
Tuitions have been frozen in BC, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Tuition increases are capped at two percentage points above the rise in inflation in Alberta, and at two percent in arts and science colleges in Ontario. Some provinces require that universities devote at least one-third of any increase in tuition to student grants and scholarships.
"Saskatchewan's approach of providing graduates who remain in the province with a $500 tax credit does little, if anything, to improve access to education," says Conway.
About the Report's Author: John Conway is Professor Emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan where he served as the first elected chair of the University Council. Professor Conway has also served as a senior policy advisor on universities in the Saskatchewan Department of Learning. (Note: This is not the Regina-based John Conway who is a member of the Regina Public School Board.)
To arrange an interview with John Conway, please contact:
Lynn Gidluck, Director, CCPA-Sask. at: (306) 584-9807