Access to Higher Education?



My son is finishing Grade 12. He’s got a math and science brain, and has applied to a number of universities to study engineering or science. This is a stressful and exciting time: the applications went in before Christmas, but acceptances (for most applicants) don’t start to arrive until after the second report card, in late February.

My wife and I have been congratulating ourselves on saving through an RESP for my son’s university expenses. The universities now all, conveniently, have online calculators that allow you to estimate the annual costs. Because he initially indicated interest in science, I neglected to call up the other tuition options until more recently – and then discovered that engineering tuition is about twice that of arts and science: $13,000 versus $7,300. With residence fees (he wants to leave home), the cost will be over $100,000 for a four-year degree. We should be grateful he’s not interested in business or commerce, which is even more expensive, but are still experiencing sticker shock.

The Government of Ontario, in its recent budget, has made a point of addressing soaring university costs by introducing a series of changes to government support that will come into effect in 2017. The budget web site says:

The OSG [Ontario Student Grant] will make average college or university tuition free for students with financial need from families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and will make tuition more affordable for middle-class families.

These are laudable goals, and speak to the ideal that all should have equal access to higher education based on ability rather than means.

Ontario deregulated profession school fees in 1998, for medicine, law and MBAs, which then rose dramatically – here’s a link to a StatsCan study that showed the impact of those increases on enrolment by middle income students – it went down. I’m assuming deregulation also applied to undergraduate engineering and business on the grounds that students will graduate to more-or-less guaranteed jobs and good incomes (fingers crossed).

The province is promising to simplify the current system, which (I dare you, try and figure it out) is complicated and confusing. That’s good news. However, the promise applied to “average college or university tuition,” which does not apply to engineering.

What you do think – should undergraduate tuition for programs like engineering and commerce be significantly higher than other programs? And, at more than $100,000 for a four year degree, can even middle class parents afford the bill?







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1 Response to Access to Higher Education?

  1. Paula Delgado says:

    Everyone should have access to higher education.It is very frustrating not to study what you want because you don’t have the means to pay it.


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