Over the past decade, university tuition fees have risen to a record high in Canada, at a rate three times that of inflation. In 1990, university tuition fees, adjusted for inflation, were on average just over $2000 a year. Today, a year in university in Canada costs on average just over $6000. In Ontario, the most expensive province for a university education, the price is $8000 a year.

But that’s not all. This figure, provided by Statistics Canada, is just the cost of tuition – the cost of simply attending the university. Adding living costs such as rent, food, books, and transportation, the cost of attending university is upwards of $11 000 a year. One year at the University of Toronto costs around $20 000. Ryerson University estimates that a one year tour on their campus costs close to $22 000. Throughout Ontario, these numbers are not much better. And don’t get comfortable yet – the price of a post secondary education is expected to rise even more.

As a student, I see no problem in paying for my education. Universities have costs and expenses that they need to pay, and it’s logical that they pay for these expenses through tuition fees from students who use their facilities.

What’s unreasonable to me is that a university education costs more than I can make in a year. The amount that is being forced onto university students is illogical and unreasonable. How is a university student, with little work experience and little time to work going to find $20 000 a year to give to their university?

At the end of their four years in university, students walk out having spent more than $80 000, owing an average of $25 000 in the form of student loans that will take most of them more than 10 years to pay off.

Of course, there’s financial aid for students. But it’s not nearly enough. In Ontario, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) pays for 30% of all tuition fees. But OSAP only pays for 30% of the tuition fees – the estimated $8000, not the entire $20 000 that students must muster up. Government grants and scholarships exist, but for most students, this won’t be able to cover all of their costs. Students can take up part time jobs, but this may come at a cost to their grades. The more time they spend on work, the less time and energy they have for their studies.

At the end of the day, students must cover the gap between what they can pay and what they must pay, a gap that is increasing at an unprecedented rate, by taking up student loans. In 1995, the average student debt was just $15 000. In just 10 years, this figure has nearly doubled.

Why are tuition fees so high? The root of this problem lies in university spending. Over the past decade, enrolment has increased dramatically. According to the  Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), the number of full time undergraduates has increased by nearly 44% since 2000. Canadian institutions have dealt with the increased population with increased spending, hiring more staff and expanding facilities. At the same time, Canadian universities are faced with the cost of improving their programs in order to attract students and compete with more renowned US institutions such as Harvard and Yale.

However, despite the increase in university students and the subsequent increased spending, government funding towards institutions has remained steady, as the government battles a recession with spending cuts. With no financial support from the government, universities have pushed their costs onto students through tuition fee hikes.

There’s a problem with university spending, but forcing the costs onto students is not the solution. Institutions have been saving themselves at the expense of students – and it’s causing more harm then good.

Without a doubt, rising tuition fees are taking a toll on the population. Graduating students are saddled with enormous amounts of debt that they struggle to pay off. Many students are discouraged from pursuing their career path by financial costs. Parents are sacrificing their pensions and retirement plans in order to fund their children’s degree. The Canadian government is losing more and more money handing out loans that students can’t pay back. In 2010, the amount of money owed to the Canadian Government in student loans surpassed $15 billion.

There’s no doubt that an university education is still a valuable, and in many cases necessary, asset. The federal government estimates that 75% of jobs created in the next decade will require some form of post-secondary education. Studies have shown that university and college graduates earn much higher incomes and experience more stable employment compared to workers with no post-secondary education. It’s unreasonable that students have to pay more and more for something that is becoming increasingly required in society. Access to education should not be so limited by its price tag.

– Apprentice David Li contributed to this piece