Education is a human right, enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Canada in 1948: “Everyone has a right to education.”
It is not just elementary and high school education that is a right. The Declaration also explicitly guarantees equitable access to post-secondary education: “Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” This clause was to be implemented by the progressive introduction of free higher education.
Since the 1990s, however, Canadian universities have been moving in the opposite direction, rapidly increasing tuition and thus making a university education more and more expensive. As a result,
- a university education has become less accessible as it is now unaffordable for many low- and middle-income Canadians; and
- student debt has been pushed to historic levels.
As many as 1,600 of each year’s Saskatchewan high school graduates may not be attending university because of a low-income background.
Today students graduate with over $25,000 of education-related debt.
TUITION AT SASKATCHEWAN UNIVERSITIES: FACTS AND FIGURES
- Between 1990 and 1999, tuition for full-time Saskatchewan undergraduates increased by 137%.
- Between 2000 and 2004, it increased by 38%.
- Between 2009 and 2011, it increased by 10.6%.
- Today, the average tuition for full-time undergraduates at Saskatchewan universities is $5,601, 2.4 times the 1990 level.
- Tuition at Saskatchewan universities exceeds the Canadian average. It is the fifth highest among the provinces.
- By 2009, the cost of tuition, as compared with average incomes, was 30% greater in Saskatchewan than in Manitoba.
- In the 1980s, tuition revenue at Saskatchewan universities accounted for less than 15% of total revenues. In 2009, it accounted for 25%.
REASONS FOR TUITION INCREASES
There are two main reasons for the tuition increases at Saskatchewan and many other Canadian universities:
- Cuts to public funding for post-secondary education, especially to cash transfer payments by the federal government in the 1990s.
- The choice universities have made to create expanded administrative structures. For example, until fairly recently, Canadian universities had only one vice president. Today both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan have four vice presidents each.
REASONS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES DON’T GO ON TO POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION
According to Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey:
- 70% of high school graduates who do not go on to post-secondary education cite financial reasons as the main factor.
- One in four of those cite debt aversion as their principal deterrent.
- Contact Prime Minister Harper and your MP and let them know you want funding for post-secondary education to be increased for the specific purpose of reducing tuition.
- Contact University of Regina President, Vianne Timmons, and let her know that you want the University to roll back tuition until it reaches 15% of total University revenue and that cuts to administrative positions might be one way to save money.
81% of Canadians believe tuition fees should be frozen or reduced.
The federal government has a treaty responsibility to provide funding for Aboriginal students to pursue a post-secondary education. Currently, the federal government provides financial assistance to Status First Nations and Inuit students through the Post-Secondary Students Support Program (PSSSP), administered by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
In 1996, the federal government imposed a 2% cap on increases to PSSSP funding. Tuition fees have more than doubled since the introduction of the cap. Also, the size of Aboriginal populations has grown dramatically.
EFFECTS OF THE 2% CAP
- 10,589 First Nations students were denied access to post-secondary education in the years 2001-2006 as a result of the cap.
- An additional 2,858 students were denied access in 2007-2008, with more being denied for every subsequent year the cap is implemented.
- Between 1999 and 2008, the number of First Nations post-secondary students decreased by 20%.
Percentage of populations with a university degree
First Nations 7%
Non-Aboriginal Canadians 23%
Non-Status First Nations and Métis students are currently not eligible for funding through the PSSSP, leaving many without the financial resources necessary to pursue post-secondary education.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 1-NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION: EDUCATION IS A RIGHT
- 11:30 am: Meet in the Riddell Centre and march to First Nations University.
- 12 noon: Rally at First Nations University. Exciting speakers, hot chocolate, and lunch.
- Removal of the 2% funding cap from PSSSP.
- Extension of eligibility for PSSSP to non-Status First Nations and Métis.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Paul Gingrich, After the Freeze: Restoring University Affordability in Saskatchewan, CCPA 2011: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/after-freeze
Canadian Federation of Students, Education Is A Right: http://educationisaright.ca/
Universal Declaration of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Assembly of First Nations, “Taking Action for First Nations Post-Secondary Education: Access, Opportunities and Outcomes Discussion Paper, 2010 (available in pdf).