By Tim Kitz

Sometimes a difference in degree can add up to a difference in kind. Trends in tuition and funding over the past three decades have reshaped post-secondary education, its role in society, and the lives of students.

For most of the 20th century, the federal government generally provided over 80 per cent of universities and colleges’ funding. Starting in 1993, Liberal governments under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin slashed provincial transfers in the name of deficit-slaying – and post-secondary funding has never recovered.

Today governments supply only 50 per cent  of post-secondary education funding. This has decisively shifted the cost of post-secondary education onto students and wealthy donors. The result is more corporate universities and colleges, which are more expensive for students and more precarious for workers.

  • In 1992-93, the federal government’s contribution (adjusted for inflation) amounted to $3,291 per post-secondary student; in 2015-16, the federal government’s per student contribution was only $2,007 per student. That is almost 40 per cent less per student!
  • In 1992-93, the federal government’s cash transfer for PSE was equivalent to 0.41 per cent of GDP. In 2014-15, it was only 0.20 per cent.
  • Average undergraduate tuition and fees have increased by 159 per cent from 1990 to 2012, after accounting for inflation.
  • In 1985, tuition accounted for only 16 per cent of the revenue of universities. By 2015, that proportion had grown to 40 per cent.

Stat sources: CUPE, the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ “Myth Buster: Federal funding in post-secondary education” and “Backgrounder No 1: Federal Funding for Post-Secondary Education.”

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