The ever climbing cost of graduate tuition

While we are very accustomed to reading about tuition fee increases for undergraduate students and the associated reactions to these increases, we are generally not made aware of the increasing cost of attending graduate school. I’m unsure of if this is due to a complacency and acceptance within graduate students or if this is related to a difference in public perception (Ah, well graduate students often receive funding and are employed by the university, we can pay them more …. etc.)

Even though it is often that case that per-semester tuition costs are lesser for graduate students, most graduate students are required to be registered full-time year-round. This results in average annual fees that are higher for grad students when compared to undergrads. While I think no one can argue that fact that university operating costs are continually increasing, the increases in both UG and Grad tuition fees are considerably higher than the rate of inflation in most provinces.

This is all further emphasised due to the fact that NSERC funding has stayed static for over a decade!

Decreasing normalised income and increasing fees is a recipe for financial difficulty and increased student debt. Is that really what is best for academia (and the country)?

This has all been highlighted for me recently as my current institution has agreed to raise graduate tuition costs by 10%  for all students and have also increased the ‘international student levy’ by 25% for the upcoming academic year. And outside of a few discussions had over liquid barley, I have yet to hear a peep from fellow graduate students. Even more appalling is the reaction (or lack thereof) from our* students union which has made no specific comments on the 10% increase.

I am genuinely alarmed at complacency. Is this the norm at other institutions, or are there ways of increasing student awareness and engagement? With administrative salaries ballooning, even with major cost cutting measures in place, I fear the trend of significantly increasing tuition fees will become standard practice in Canadian post-secondary institutions.


 *I should add that graduate students at my current institution are in the odd(?) situation of having no separate students union (URSU represents undergraduate and graduate students) and as such are often not well represented due to smaller student population. 

5 thoughts on “The ever climbing cost of graduate tuition

  • HI Dave,
    That *is* odd that there isn’t a separate student group for grad students. Please tell me you at least have some representation in the URSU? And I would argue that NSERC funding hasn’t remained static, but has actually declined because it hasn’t kept pace with inflation. I think it was your posting of that table back in February that prompted my post on cost-of-living: So, even for “fully funded” students, this 10% increase means a drop in their take-home pay, which really hits home in the “booming” economy of Saskatchewan, where rent and the cost of living are already high.

    • Thanks for the reply, Alex.
      The fact that graduate students do not have their own students’ union, voicing the concerns of it’s members, is a foreign one to me. Within the current students’ union, there is on position on the board of directors (out of 26 positions) that is titled ‘graduate students director’. Again, there seems to be an overwhelming sense of complacency within the student community.
      As for the relative decrease in NSERC funding value (if you’re one of the few to even get it), it only compounds the issue! I was searching for your well written post on cost-of-living so I could reference it in my post, but couldn’t find it. As you show, the cost-of-living is increasing (especially in SK) and so is tuition costs! This coupled with the overall decrease in salaries is leading to a significant gap between income and expenses.

    • At Berkeley, as you probably know, not all innmciog students are funded, and I know some students who had TA-ships that covered “in state tuition only” for their first year, which meant they had to pay the difference until they established residency (or get an RA-ship on top of the TA-ship).Policies vary by department within the university, even, of course.Some states do not even allow you to get residency ever as a grad student. I know someone in a humanities department at a public university in the midwest who has a TA and tuition waiver but no stipend, and another who could get a tuition waiver but not a FEE waiver, so that health insurance, etc. is not covered from TA-ing.

      • I have also paid my tuition tohgurh credit card, and I do so to get airmiles. Why shouldn’t I be able to get a little something back, with our educations costing so much.I’m a student, and I have a $4500 limit. We are out there. If you are jealous that I can get a high limit, perhaps you shouldn’t have taken fine arts.

  • Yes, don’t do it. Go to school part time and work to pay your matgroge. Very few people can afford to pay back the kind of loans you’re talking about after college. This means you would be at major risk of losing your house because school loan lenders have the ability other lenders don’t have to take everything you have.

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