Up, Up and away:

The latest back-to-school trend seems to be bad news as Statistics Canada has released a study showing university students will pay more in tuition this year.

The study, released in the last week of August, shows Canadian undergraduate arts students will pay 7.1 per cent more in 1999/2000 than the year before. This compares with increases of about 11 per cent each in the two previous years.

"[It’s] bad news for students all around, although it appears as if the increases across the country have eased up," said Canadian Alliance of Student Associations National Director Jason Aebig. "There’s been a two per cent reprieve, but at the end of the day, it still means more money out of the pockets of
students."

According to the study, Alberta students pay the third highest tuition in Canada ($3,658) after Nova Scotia ($4,113) and Ontario ($3,872). Tuition in Alberta has also increased the most when compared with other provinces.

"The StatsCan survey shows, not surprisingly, that tuition has gone up by the greatest percentage of an increase in the past decade in Alberta," said University of Calgary Students’ Union President Rob South. "It’s gone up 194 per cent provincially compared with a national average of 125 per cent."

The study cites lower government spending on education as one cause of the increases.

"The problem is that the federal transfers that came prior to 1993 have been tapped and cut off," said Aebig. "Between 1993 and 1998, per student funding by the federal government has dropped $1500. It would be quite a leap and oversimplified to make a direct correlation between that and the amount that tuition’s gone up, but on average across the country, students have seen about a $1,000 to $1,500 increase in tuition since 1993."

The study also shows that government revenue declined from 74 per cent to 58 per cent for the period between 1980 and 1996/97.

"That stat is disturbing because it shows that governments across the country view university education not as an investment but as a cost," said South.

Alberta Learning Spokesperson Ed Greenberg contends that post secondary institutions are an important part of the government policy of learning.

"Since 1996/97, for example, our overall funding for post-secondary institutions has increased by about 15 per cent," said Greenberg.

South hopes the study highlights the negative effects tuition increases have on students.

"It should bring to light, to a lot of people in government particularly, how startling the increases have been and how little thought has been put into the effects of these increases on both students and families," he said.

However, Alberta Learning says they are helping students deal with increased tuition by boosting maximum loan amounts to $10,100 and offering scholarships, awards and loan remissions.

"We’re trying to make sure that financial need is not a barrier to post-secondary institutions for Alberta," said Greenberg. "We have the tuition fee policy that restricts annual tuition fee increases and sets a ceiling on the amount of tuition revenue an institution can collect. We’re trying various measures to lighten the financial load on students who want to attend post-secondary institutions in this province."

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