Student leaders claim recent tuition study is flawed
By Chris Webden
Student leaders are critical of a government report which states rising tuition over the past decade has not affected university enrollment.
The report, entitled The Price of Knowledge: Access and Student Finance in Canada, was released Monday by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, an arm's length organization of the federal government.
"This is the first national study of this magnitude," said Sean Junor, a researcher with the CSMF and one of the study's authors.
The foundation's researchers believe the barriers keeping students from pursuing post-secondary education are more than just rising tuition fees. They cited higher admission requirements, as well as what they called social and cultural costs, he explained.
According to Joel Duff, the Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, CSMF is irresponsible for denying the negative impacts increasing tuition fees and soaring student debt have on students from lower and middle socio-economic backgrounds.
"[The foundation's] goal is to tell the federal government what they want to hear," Duff said.
"They are using taxpayers' money to create a report that tells all levels of government that everything is alright despite rising tuition, when really it isn't," Duff added.
Liam Arbuckle, the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, agreed with Duff.
"My biggest concern is with the antiquated data," Arbuckle said, noting many of the statistics used in the report date as far back as the 1980s.
"We do applaud [CSMF] for doing the research, but they cannot take stats from 1995 and expect them to reflect today's student body," Duff added.
Duff and Arbuckle also believe the foundation is using the term "participation rate" as a synonym for the term "accessibility."
"Just because the number of students attending university is increasing does not mean there is no problem with students being able to afford university," Arbuckle explained.
"Just because people have no money does not mean they stop eating," Duff added, noting more and more students are realizing they must go to university in order to earn a middle-class income as adults.
"Besides, their statistics come from before the late '90s when most of the major tuition increases occurred and many programs became deregulated," Duff added.
According to Junor, the statistics and conclusions of the study are quite accurate.
"Although we did use 1991 and 1995 data, we followed it up with a different study conducted in 2000," Junor said, noting the number of students surveyed in 2000 who cited financial reasons for not attending university only rose from 23 to 36 per cent.
According to Duff, the age of the statistics does not change the fact that university tuition has more than doubled in the past 10 years and student debt has more than tripled.