Post Secondary Education Cost Disparity

Res #: 18-05M
Number: 18
Year: 2005
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Learning

Resolution No. 18-05M

WHEREAS, access to post secondary education is critical to the economic well being of the province; and

WHEREAS, many Saskatchewan students reside outside of the centres where post secondary institutions are located; and

WHEREAS, Saskatchewan, in a recent national survey, ranked last in terms of accessibility to post secondary education; and

WHEREAS, all residents of Saskatchewan contribute to the provincial government revenue base; and

WHEREAS, provincial income tax regulations provide for post secondary students or their parents to claim an eleven per cent (11%) non-refundable tax credit, as per Saskatchewan Income and Tax Credits T1 General form SK428 – Line 33, for the student’s living expenses; and

WHEREAS, students who must relocate from their home to another centre to attend a post secondary institution incur costs of $6,000 to $7,000 per year greater than urban students who are able to live at home while they attend post secondary studies;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Provincial Government recognize this post secondary education cost disparity and undertake initiatives to address it to ensure that all families have equal opportunity of access.

Response from Bonnie Durnford, Deputy Minister of Learning:

Government recognizes the critical importance of post-secondary education for the province's economic and social development. As such, we are committed to ensuring that Saskatchewan people have access to post-secondary education in the province. Our government also recognizes that individuals from rural areas face increased financial costs associated with post-secondary study.

We have created additional financial allowances through the student financial assistance system to better support those lower-income students who must move or commute in order to access post-secondary study. These supports include a return transportation allowance that provides students with a maximum of $1,200 for travel between their study and home locations each year. Students who relocate to study may also qualify for up to $600 for relocation or moving expenses. Finally, a commuting allowance was created for those students who travel to their post- secondary studies, to help support this travel.

Costs associated with post-secondary study are an issue for some students, particularity those from lower-income backgrounds. As part of government's on- going commitment to post-secondary accessibility, Saskatchewan universities were provided with a Centennial Tuition Grant of $6.7 million for 2005-06 to ensure that tuition fees would be kept at 2004-05 levels.

According to Statistic Canada's Tuition and Living Accommodations Cost Survey, Saskatchewan's university tuition and compulsory fees are as of 2005-06 are lower than those charged in Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. Although tuition fees are an important part of educational costs, they are not the only costs incurred. For those who must move from their homes to attend a post- secondary institution, there are costs associated with moving and living expenses.

Though Saskatchewan students do benefit from the fact that living costs are lower in Saskatchewan than in many other provinces, we know that students moving away from their home communities face higher costs than those able to live at home while studying. One of the ways government has worked to address the concern about living costs has been to expand the capacity of the regional colleges and establish funding for distance education through Campus Saskatchewan, in order to ensure that more individuals have greater access to post-secondary education where they live. In addition, individuals from lower and middle-income families may also have access to loan and grant funding through the Student Financial Assistance Program to facilitate their participation in post-secondary education.

Government carefully monitors student borrowing, and is a partner with the federal government in several programs designed to ensure that graduates do not face undue hardship in repaying their loans. In the recent provincial Budget, government announced a review of accessibility and student t financial assistance designed to examine the situation in the province. The Accessibility and Student Financial Assistance Review is a consultative process lead by Saskatchewan Learning to access and evaluate the current state of accessibility and affordability in post-secondary education, how the current array of student financial assistance programs is meeting the needs of Saskatchewan people, what changes need to be made to these programs, and how those changes will be implements.

In closing, I want to emphasize our commitment to ensuring Saskatchewan people have access to affordable post-secondary education, both for their individual development and to support a strong society and economy benefiting all Saskatchewan people.