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The smart folks over at the Educational Policy Institute have just released a new study comparing the US and Canada on student assistance. The report looks at absolute and relative levels of cost in each of the 50 US states and 10 Canadian provinces as well as the amount of student assistance provided in each jurisdiction as a percentage of the cost of attendance. Among the paper’s findings:
– Average tuition and fee charges in US in 1999-00 was $4,251 (in Canadian dollars at Purchasing Power Parity) compared to CDN$3,403 in Canada.
– The variations in cost are larger within in each country than the variation between the two countries. Total cost of attendance in 00-01 (tuition plus room and board) in Canada ranged between $4,137 and $8,846 (BC and Nova Scotia, respectively) while in the US it ranges between $4,664 and $11,577 (Oklahoma and New Jersey, respectively)
– Canada and the US are roughly equal when it comes to providing grants to students; however, greater loan eligibility in the US means that students there have to come up with fewer dollars out of their own pockets to study than do students in Canada.
Their conclusion is that “while tuition fees at Canadian universities remain lower than those in the United States, smaller family incomes and less generous student aid programs mean that education is in some respects more expensive on this side of the border.”
What intrigued me the most was a note at the bottom of the press release:
While… Canadian university education may not be as affordable as expected, the report’s authors caution against interpreting the results of this study to make inferences about accessibility of education.
“The study shows that we have some problems in providing sufficient amounts of student assistance in Canada,” said EPI Vice-President and Director (Canada) Alex Usher. “But we also know from other studies that participation rates are increasing for students from all backgrounds have been increasing rapidly, and that Canada has an excellent record internationally in terms of access to PSE. While linked, affordability and accessibility are two separate concepts and we need to keep that in mind.”

Question for the class: Assuming that there is no negative impact on accessibility, what arguments are there against higher tuition fees? That is to say, should we be concerned about rising tuition rates for reasons other than accessibility?

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