Debts determined by choice of faculty

Some programs have significantly higher tuition rates than others, but applications are still on this rise

Commerce has the highest undergraduate tuition at Queen’s.
Commerce has the highest undergraduate tuition at Queen’s.

When they graduate, many students will leave Queen’s with a diploma in one hand and thousands of dollars of student debts in the other. For those in faculties like Commerce and Engineering, their debt will be nearly double that of their peers in other faculties.

The practice of charging university students more for certain majors is known as a differential tuition plan and is a common practice across Canada. For example, last year’s tuition for Commerce students was almost $15,000, Engineering’s was just over $11,000 while Arts and Science students paid about $6,600.

Alistair MacLean, dean of Arts and Science, said the disparity in tuition between faculties doesn’t generate an excessive profit for the University. Instead, it’s in place to offset the expenses of providing highly technical or resource-intensive classes.

“In the current fiscal environment it appears it will continue to be an increasing challenge for the faculty and University to generate sufficient incremental resources to keep pace with rising operating costs,” he said.

Queen’s faculties differ in priorities and philosophy, he said. This accounts for a variation in costs corresponding to students’ willingness to pay for those services.

Shannon Goodspeed, associate director at the Queen’s School of Business points to the success of the University’s Commerce program as indication otherwise.

“Interest in our program is increasing and applications are on the rise. This year, we received around 5,000 applications for 450 spots,” she said.

If Commerce students take Arts and Science courses during the summer, they are required to pay nearly twice as much than an Arts and Science student for the same course. Goodspeed wouldn’t speculate as to why this is the case.

Yvonne Chung, Comm ’14, believes charging extra for summer courses is excessive. But, it’s a pill she’s willing to swallow.

“The funny thing is no one is complaining. I wouldn’t either. Queen’s Commerce can increase their tuition three-fold and I’m sure they will still have many applicants knocking on their door,” she said.

Chung, who said she doesn’t come from a wealthy family, wasn’t deterred by the program’s higher cost.

“To some extent the higher tuition is justified. Arguably the top business program in Canada, Queen’s Commerce students pay for extra luxuries to complement the demands of our program. For example, nicer facilities, IT services, a business career center, small class sizes, and networking opportunities,” she said.

The Commerce program has a 96 per cent placement rate for students pursuing employment post-graduation. This means an increased likelihood that its graduates are able to quickly earn back money spent on their tuition.

“Accounting for the lump-sum money my parents saved up for my education, my part-time and summer work money, bursaries and scholarships, as well as considering the average estimated salary for a Queen’s Commerce grad, it should take me about three years to pay [my tuition] off,” Chung said.

For Yuchen Wang, ArtSci ’13, her less expensive tuition compared to Chung’s more extravagant costs doesn’t necessarily mean a lesser education.

“It doesn’t make much sense to charge students uniformly for vastly different academic pursuits. Arts students require traditional examinations which are simply less costly whereas Engineers and Commies tend to rely on practicums and presentations,” she said.

Wang, an economics major, receives OSAP in order to help pay her tuition costs. At the moment, she is approximately $27,000 in debt. She expects these debts to go up as she plans to pursue graduate studies.

Although she hopes to pay off her debts within five years of graduation, she isn’t confident in her job prospects with an undergraduate education alone.

“I’m applying for law schools in the fall and once I graduate, I should feel a lot more confident. I think a lot of undergrads these days understand that their bachelors degree is simply not enough to guarantee a great job.”

— With files from Alison Shouldice

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.