New report shows high cost of university education hitting families harder than ever

PSAC (Ontario) joined the Ontario University Coalition to advocate within the broader labour movement for the Union’s over 4,000 members employed as Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants and Post-Doctoral Associates at Queen’s University, Western Ontario and University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

A new report commissioned by the Ontario University Coalition (OUC) reveals the increasing pressure that Ontario families face in order to afford the cost of a university education. The report entitled “Under Pressure: The impact of rising tuition fees on Ontario families,” written by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), looks at the financial shifts that have occurred over the past 20 years and shows that low- and middle-income families are stretched to the limit in order to pay the $6,500 per year price tag for university.

“Paying for an expensive university education is a burden that not only falls on individual students, but it deeply affects Ontario’s parents as well,” says David Macdonald, Associate Researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The combination of record high household debt, stagnating incomes and steadily rising tuition fees have made it much harder for Ontario families to get their kids through school.”

Today, Canadian families have debt equal to 150 per cent of its disposable income on average, compared to 93 per cent in 1990. The explosion in housing prices during this period has been the most significant reason, particularly those who live in urban centres. At the same time, low- and middle-incomes families are making less or about the same in after-tax income compared to what they earned in 1990. During the same period, Ontario students have faced a 244 per cent real tuition rate increase.

The study shows that if a middle-income family began dedicating every cent of their after-tax earnings towards the cost of their child’s tuition fees on September 1, 2011, they would have to work until March 14, 2012 before they paid for a four-year degree. The same family in 1990 would only have to work for three months – until the end of November – to pay for the degree.

Sharon DeSousa, Regional Executive Vice-President of PSAC Ontario, calls upon the over 30,000 members across Ontario to make the issue of accessible education a ballot question leading up to the provincial election on October 6th, 2011: “public services, including accessible and quality education, are important today, tomorrow and on election day. The mounting debt that our members, their families and their children are expected to carry to pursue a university degree is unacceptable. We need to elect candidates who will protect public services for the benefit of all Canadians.”

The Ontario University Coalition is comprised of organizations representing students, staff and faculty from the post-secondary education sector in Ontario including the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, Confederation of Ontario Staff Associations and Unions, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Public Service Alliance of Canada, United Steelworkers and Ontario Federation of Labour.

Please click on the following link to access the full report:
Under Pressure

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