Ontario decreases annual tuition cap

The government has changed the cap from five per cent annually to three

Brad Duguid, minister of training, Universities and Colleges in Ontario.
Brad Duguid, minister of training, Universities and Colleges in Ontario.

The Ontario government is reducing the cap on annual tuition fee increases over the next four years, limiting inflation rates.

Under the new framework, universities are prohibited from increasing tuition more than three per cent annually. This stabilizes tuition for students, ensuring that tuition is unable to rise past a three per cent inflation each year.

This newly-instated cap applies to all publicly-funded programs at universities and colleges in Ontario.

The new cap will strike a balance between the universities’ financial goals and the students’ economic status, Brad Duguid, the minister of Training, Universities and Colleges in Ontario, said.

With the previous five per cent tuition cap, the latest limit is an attempt to make post-secondary education financially accessible, he said.

The average inflation rate for Ontario tuition over the past 10 years is two per cent annually, which Duguid said is appropriately reflected in the three per cent tuition cap.

The government is achieving a proper balance between inflation rates and provincial tuition, he added.

“We are determined to make sure that as there may be less [tuition] increases going forward, that we continue to maintain a world-class quality in our institutions,” he said.

Previously, professional and graduate programs were able to increase their tuition by eight per cent annually, which is now being decreased to five per cent, Duguid said.

“A number of [the institutions] were concerned about the impact on their ability to increase revenues by charging students more,” he said.

The University announced in the 2013-14 budget report that they recommend that tuition fees at the undergraduate level be increased to the extent allowed by the government’s tuition framework.

The University was unable to respond to the Journal before deadline.

Despite this, the new cap could result in financial difficulties for the University.

“We are still increasing funding to our institutions but at a lower level than we have been able to do in the past,” Duguid said, referring to the three per cent cap.

The province has funding programs that assist students with the financial pressures of studying in Ontario, which has the highest tuition rates in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

Ontario’s Student Access Guarantee grant is one of the programs that helps ensure that no student in the province is denied post-secondary education based on their financial status.

Starting in the 2014-15 academic year, the government will introduce a new approach to deferral fees which will better align with the access program, as students will be able to wait for their grants before they have to pay tuition, Duguid said.

The government also offers a 30 per cent off Ontario tuition grant that reduces tuition for students whose annual family income is below $160,000, which more than half of all full-time students in Ontario gained access to last year.

Each qualifying university student saves an average of $1,730 on tuition annually.

“More access to post-secondary opportunity and improvements to students’ learning experiences have led to higher rates of student success at colleges and universities,” he said.

In the past 10 years, university enrolment has increased by 40 per cent in Ontario, and investments in student assistance have resulted in double the number of students qualifying for financial aid.

The government is taking a stance on inflation rates, and offers more than 20 different provincial and federal grants, bursary and scholarship programs for post-secondary students.

“We need to ensure that we are listening to student concerns and responding to them, and that’s what this tuition framework changes were really all about,” Duguid said.

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