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It’s On-Line-Courses, Full-Time-Tuition For Canadian Universities This Fall

Despite classes being online in the fall term, universities are still charging their students full tuition, and students are pushing back.

In Short: Universities across Canada have decided to move their courses online and operate remotely for the 2020 fall term to follow public health procedures and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Student Response

Over 5,000 students and parents have signed a petition, calling for Ontario universities and colleges to reduce tuition due to the impacts of COVID-19.

  • Students are unable to form in-person connections with their colleagues and professors.
  • Students will be unable to use the physical resources on campus including lecture halls, the library, sports facilities, and other extra-curricular activities.
  • Additionally, the pandemic has affected jobs and employment rates, making it difficult for students and families to pay tuition.

“We believe that students should only be paying full tuition for the full University and College experience,” the petition states.

A survey of 300 graduating high-school students and 800 post-secondary students, commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Federation of Students, found that 30% were considering changing their plans for the fall.

  • 76% said it was because the experience of online learning will not be the same as in-person learning.

Although learning will not be the same, enrollment numbers have not decreased. As of June, 103,426 students have confirmed that they will be attending school this fall, according to data from the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre.

  • About 1,100 more students than last year


For the 2019-20 academic year, Ontario reduced tuition fees by 10%, and froze tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year. This means institutions are expected to charge the same amount this year as the previous year.

In a July 6 statement to CTV News Ottawa, the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities writes:

“In order to be able to deliver online courses to all students, major adjustments had to be made to online platforms at our post-secondary institutions. These adjustments, the development and delivery of online courses, and other service modifications have been costly for institutions.”

Other provinces are facing similar adjustments.

  • The University of Winnipeg will raise tuition by 3.75% as they anticipate an $11.3 million loss in revenues. This is stemming from both the impact of the pandemic and the 3.7% cut in grant funding from the province.
  • Cape Breton University will increase tuition and fees for the upcoming year by $24 per course.
  • Dalhousie University describes their enrolment situation as “volatile”. It envisions a potential decline in tuition revenue of up to $37.8 million.

International Students

The Ontario reduction and tuition freeze do not apply to international students. In fact, universities have raised tuition for international students.

At the end of last year, there were almost 500,000 post-secondary international students in Canada, according to The Star.

  • International students contribute $6 billion a year in tuition at Canadian universities.
  • In 2018, they contributed $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy.
  • International students were not able to qualify for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.

Incoming international students might have to pay between 5% and 16% more in fees at the University of Windsor.

At Carleton University, there has been about an 8% increase between fall 2019 and fall 2020 tuition for first-year international students.

Geri Johnston, Executive Assistant to Suzanne Blanchard, Vice-President (Students and Enrolment) and University Registrar of Carleton University, wrote in an email:

“Tuition fees for undergraduate international students have increased as approved by the Board of Governors. International tuition fee rates are higher than domestic tuition fee rates as the full cost of education for international students is covered by tuition fees. The cost of educating domestic students is covered partly by tuition fees and partly by provincial government grants.”

The federal government says it is working on ways to support international students in Canada as of June.

So what are students paying for?

The Coronavirus FAQ page on the Carleton Newsroom webpage states that online learning costs the same as face-to-face instruction, for designing virtual classrooms and online opportunities require multi-million-dollar investments.

“There is still a need for resources to be directed toward instructors, marking, academic advising and other student support…”

Aside from courses, it also states that almost all the services students normally receive continue to be available virtually.

Bottom Line: Online education comes with a cost.

  • For Universities, this is the cost of technology and human resources for instruction, marking, academic advising, student support, and potential loss in revenue from a decrease in enrolment.
  • For students, this is the cost of not having a satisfying university experience, both academically and socially, where their learning experience will be very different on a computer screen.