Cheapest Tuition ranked by Province

Tuition has increased 948% since 1975. University students employed at minimum-wage jobs worked from 230 hours in 1975 to 570 hours in 2013 for an undergraduate degree. Medical, legal, and dental students worked 286 hours at a minimum-wage job in 1975 to 1,711 hours now to pay annual tuition costs of $17,324. I haven’t had a family doctor for approximately 8 years. Nor can I access a Supreme Court Legal Aid Lawyer in my community, I have to drive down to Nanaimo or Duncan to meet with one on a first come, first serve basis. 5 years ago I met with a Supreme Court Duty Counsel lawyer in my community. Our government policies aren’t helping; if anything they are making things worse and its putting enormous pressure on vulnerable families trying to support their children. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.



Jurisdiction 1975 2013 Increase Change
Alberta $415 $5,670 $5,255 1266%
British Columbia $442 $5,029 $4,587 1038%
Manitoba $435 $3,779 $3,344 769%
New Brunswick $653 $6,133 $5,480 839%
Newfoundland and Labrador $500 $2,644 $2,144 429%
Nova Scotia $689 $6,185 $5,496 798%
Ontario $610 $7,259 $6,649 1090%
Quebec $532 $2,653 $2,121 399%
Saskatchewan $479 $6,394 $5,915 1235%
Canada average $551 $5,772 $4,555 948%

* Dollar amounts not adjusted for inflation
** PEI data start in 1977, previous years not available.
Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, based on tuition data from Statistics Canada


Many university students have to work double, triple and in some cases six times the number of hours in minimum-wage jobs to afford tuition costs compared to 40 years ago, according to Statistics Canada data analyzed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

According to the data, which track tuition costs from 1975 to 2013, the average number of minimum-wage hours needed to pay for an undergraduate degree in 1975 was 230. That number went up nearly 2½ times to 570 by 2013.

Professional faculties have seen the steepest increases. A dentistry student would have had to work 286 hours at a minimum-wage job in 1975 to afford the tuition fee then of $664.

In 2013, that same student had to labour for 1,711 hours to pay annual tuition costs of $17,324.


Number of work hours, by province

This table shows the number of minimum-wage work hours required to pay for university tuition, broken down by province.

1975 2013 Increase (%)
National average 230 570 148%
Nfld. 227 264 16%
N.S. 308 606 97%
P.E.I. 266 570 114%
N.B. 293 613 109%
Que. 214 266 25%
Ont. 260 708 173%
Man. 183 366 100%
Sask. 196 639 226%
Alta. 174 577 231%
B.C. 175 491 180%

(Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)


University of Manitoba student Aurora Hares, 25, told CBC News she knows how hard it is to balance finances while pursuing a university education.

Hares will complete her bachelor of science degree this month. It took her seven years, and she had to work a full-time job at a hardware chain store on top of taking multiple courses.

She said some days she worked more than 12 hours and was getting migraines from the stress.

“You are always on this treadmill, trying to catch up with what you are doing,” she said. “You have no downtime.”

Hares said her heavy course load and full-time job proved too much for her this year. She quit her job to concentrate on school, a decision that came with financial consequences.

“It makes me anxious to think about it,” she said. “How much do I owe? How will I pay it back?”

Yalnizyan said the data show that when governments decide to do something about education costs, they can make a difference.

“We really do need governments to drive down costs, but to be able to do that they need the federal government at the table too,” she said.

“It would be wonderful to see the provinces work together to develop a national mission to make it easier for students to study.”

“Tuition is a always a concern,” said Davidson. “But we have to make sure that we have an education system that’s well- funded, that’s high-quality, and delivers the results that students and their parents expect.”

Davidson points out that the data set doesn’t reflect how many students are accessing financial assistance on offer by the universities and the provincial governments.

“Forty per cent of students get financial assistance from the institution and, in some cases … as much as 60 per cent of the students in the institution get some kind of discount on their tuition,” he said.

Professional degrees see largest jump

Tuition costs for degrees in arts, social sciences and education more than doubled, but the most dramatic increases occur in professional degrees like law, medicine and dentistry.

Dentistry took six times more minimum-wage hours to pay for tuition, while law and medicine required in excess of four times more hours.

Jack Fingrut, a Toronto dentist who graduated in the mid-1970s, said he paid his $5,400 tuition through summer jobs and did not take on any debt.

“It was a lot at the time,” he said. “It seemed quite expensive, but I was able to manage.”

He added, “I didn’t get help from my parents because my father was older. I just had to do it myself.”

Fingrut’s son, Daniel Fingrut, graduated with a dentistry degree in 2012. He said he had to acquire a student loan to make ends meet.

The younger Fingrut said tuition was a small part of what he had to pay. Equipment, clinic fees, and other incidentals can rack up a hefty bill for the degree, he said.

He acquired a $150,000 line of credit from his bank in order to make ends meet.

“Private banks are actually pretty good about giving private lines of credit now for dental students,” he said. “Funding is available — of course, it’s borrowed money.”

“Paying it back is a bit more of the problem,” he added.

‘People will definitely give it a second thought’

Daniel Fingrut paid back his debt in two years by working at his father’s dental practice, but he said not all students are so lucky and looming debt may dissuade others from entering the profession.

“The worst thing that we can have [is] to have young people not pursue post-secondary education because it’s too expensive and the debt burden is too significant.” said Francis Fong, a senior economist with the TD Bank Group.

“That’s the opposite of where we want to end up.”

Fong said Canada’s economy is dependent on how skilled the labourforce is and looming student debt can dissuade students from pursuing higher education.

“Policy should ensure that we contain overall post-secondary education costs to ensure there’s affordability out there,” he said.

Yalnizyan said the burden on students is too high.

“We’re raising tuitions,” she said, “making it harder to find a job in the first place and work enough hours to be able to work hard at becoming the best they can be.”



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