On Campus

Think your tuition bill is too high? Check out the government’s

Most university funding doesn’t come from students

Compensation of Quebec Admins

Photo courtesy of Duckie Monster on Flickr

In South Korea, post-secondary students are demanding that the government pay a bigger share of the bill for higher education. Their government spends around $7,000 per student per year, while students pay an average of $8,000 in tuition fees. The protesters think the government should bring funding in line with the OECD-average spending — $10,000 per pupil in 2006-07.

That’s a modest request, considering how much Canadian governments spend. On average, it was over $20,000 per student in 2007, making our universities the second-most publicly-funded in the 31-member OECD. Funding per student was just behind Switzerland (the highest in the world), a third ahead of the U.S. and more than double the rich-country average. (For more, see page 237 of this OECD report.)

The debate about how costs should be split isn’t new to Canadians. There have always people who believe post-secondary education is a public good, so the state should foot the entire tab for everyone. On the other extreme, there have always been people who argue that a degree primarily benefits the person who takes it, so that person should cover most of the costs.

But do students realize how little of universities’ total budgets are funded by tuition?

Statistics Canada data show that nationwide tuition fees make up roughly 20 per cent of universities’ revenue, while federal and provincial transfers make up 55 per cent.

So the next time you pay that $5,000 tuition bill, consider that the taxpayers likely kicked in around $20,000 toward the school’s budget. Then ask yourself: Is this really such a bad deal?

Here are the numbers from 2009.

Source: Statistics Canada Canada N.L. P.E.I. N.S. N.B.
Total revenue 37,441,581,000 613,274,000 171,382,000 1,189,594,000 624,295,000
Own source revenue 44.8 31.9 47.2 57.1 47.0
Sales of goods and services 34.4 26.7 41.1 47.4 36.1
Tuition fees 20.5 13.9 23.2 29.9 27.2
Other sales of goods and services 13.9 12.8 17.9 17.5 9.0
Investment income 2.9 0.7 1.4 3.1 3.5
Other own-source revenue 7.4 4.5 4.7 6.6 7.3
Government transfers 55.2 68.1 52.8 42.9 53.0
Federal 9.0 11.8 11.7 9.2 7.9
Provincial 46.1 56.1 41.0 33.7 45.1
Local 0.1 0.1 .. 0.0 0.0

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