A Brief Look at the State of Canadian...

A Brief Look at the State of Canadian Undergraduate Tuition Fees

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By Jacob Aron Leung

When it comes to choosing a post-secondary institution to attend, there are many factors. Many students consider if the place offers a program they’re interested in, certain specializations the school excels at, and what kind of reputation it has. One of the biggest factors, however, comes from the question about tuition: how much does it cost for their studies?

Most Expensive Programs 

During the 2022/2023 academic year, domestic full-time undergraduate students studying these six degree programs spent the most on tuition:

  • Dentistry ($23,963)
  • Medicine ($15,182)
  • Veterinary medicine ($14,828)
  • Law ($13,222)
  • Pharmacy ($12,291)
  • Optometry ($10,389)

This ranking remained almost the same from the previous year. The only difference was that pharmacy surpassed optometry, compared to when their 2022/2023 tuition fees cost $11,133 and $11,235 respectively. Full-time undergraduate students paid an overall average of $6,834 in 2022/2023.

For medicine, dentistry, and law, their status as expensive programs is not new. A 2005 Statistics Canada study found that tuition fees from the 1995-1996 to 2001-2002 academic years disclosed major undergraduate tuition raises in these programs compared to the 34 per cent increase in “all undergraduate disciplines”:

  • Dentistry: up 168 per cent
  • Medicine: up 132 per cent
  • Law: up 61 per cent

Costs Trying to Adjust for Inflation

While tuition depends on many variables like the type of program (certificate, diploma, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc.), numbers from Statistics Canada from 2022 indicates that costs living as a student increased across the board. Costs of rent and groceries have especially impacted students.

To account for this widespread inflation, average domestic undergraduate tuition costs started declining from 2020 onwards. In 2020, the average fees cost $6,801, and by 2022, they were $6,436. This proved minimal and short-lived, as for Statistics Canada’s projections for 2022/2023, those numbers rose again to $7,076.

International Student Fees 

All the numbers so far only account for domestic students. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 1,040,985 international students studied in the country by the end of 2023. Data from 2019-2024 shows that international undergraduate students pay at least four times the tuition fees than their domestic counterparts. By 2024, that number shows more than five times the price domestic students pay:

2019/2020 academic year:

  • $6,468 (domestic undergraduate fees)
  • $29,883 (international undergraduate fees)

2023/2024 academic year:

  • $7,076 (domestic undergraduate fees)
  • $38,081 (international undergraduate fees)

Unlike the dip domestic students saw in their tuition fees during the early COVID years, international student fees continued to increase. While domestic undergraduate students over the past few years have seen increases up to three per cent, international undergraduate students have seen increases up to eight per cent. With the Canadian Government set to issue only 360,000 international student study permits this year — a 35 per cent decrease compared to 2023 — trying to study in Canada as an international student has only gotten harder.

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