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'Burden on students is too high': Ontario tuition most expensive in country

Province defends high costs with financial assistance programs.

Carleton University's main campus is seen in this photo. Students here and across Ontario are paying the highest average tuition of anywhere in the country.

Haley Ritchie / Ottawa Staff

Carleton University's main campus is seen in this photo. Students here and across Ontario are paying the highest average tuition of anywhere in the country.

As they head back to class this week, Ontario students are paying more than their peers anywhere else in the country.

New numbers from Statistics Canada show the province continued to have the highest fees in the country.

On average, Ontario undergraduate students will pay $8,454 for a full-time course load this year, up an average of $300 from the 2016-2017 school year. That average includes higher fees for more technical programs and lower ones for arts-based degrees.

The province’s closest comparator is Nova Scotia, where the average tuition is $7,726.

Zameer Masjedee, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association, said the costs are rising too fast for many students.

“The burden on students is too high,” he said. “There are students on our campus today who struggle to pay for their rent and for food.”

Masjedee said Ontario’s financial support for students in grants and loans is a good move, but it doesn’t deal with the real problem of underinvestment in Canadian universities.

“That is just a temporary fix for what is really a long-term problem at this point.”

Michael McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, agreed with that assessment and said it’s time for government to invest more in universities.

“We do think both the federal and provincial governments need to make sure to re-dedicate to a publicly funded post-secondary education system.”

Statistics Canada’s numbers have shown a steady drop since the mid-1990s in the amount of educational funding coming from governments.

Ontario Minister of Advanced Education Deb Matthews was not available for an interview Wednesday.

Ingrid Anderson, a spokesperson for the department, pointed to the financial assistance offsetting these higher tuition fees.

"The net cost of postsecondary education is often less for students in Ontario than for students in other provinces,” she said in an email.  

She also pointed out that the cost is not preventing students form taking part.

“While Ontario has the highest average tuition among Canadian provinces, it also has the highest participation rate of any province, including among individuals with lower family income.”

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