Tuition fees have skyrocketed over the last two decades, more than doubling since 2001. Where average tuition fees were $2,500 in 2000, they are over $5,900 in 2019; the average cost of obtaining a degree has increased by over $13,700 in tuition fees alone. The reason for this is clear: years of cuts and neglect have resulted in an underfunded system that makes up for funding on the backs of students and their families.
In recent years, the proportion of public funding to BC colleges and universities has dropped to less than 44% of total operating revenue, down from more than 80% in the 1980s and more than 90% in the 1970s; the proportion of tuition fee revenues now makes up 48% of institutions’ revenue — surpassing the proportion from government funding. This constitutes a massive divestment in public education for the current generation of young people compared to the support provided to those who attended college and university in past decades.
With the rising cost of tuition fees, add to those costs a multitude of new ancillary fees, ballooning housing costs, rapidly inflating transportation costs and other increased living costs, and it is easy to see why so many students are struggling. Compounding the squeeze on students and their families is the fact that wages have remained stagnant, and student financial assistance has not kept pace with need.
Our public post-secondary education system needs a renewed prioritization and investment from the BC government. With it, the government can freeze tuition fees at current levels and establish a plan to progressively reduce fees in the future. This action is absolutely necessary to help make life more affordable for BC students and their families.
How can we tell the next generation that they can’t afford to dream? When it comes to British Columbia’s post-secondary system, we need to fund it, and fix it, now.