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What’s behind the explosive growth in Canadian university costs?

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From the Macdonald Laurier Institute

By David Clinton for Inside Policy

Dramatic increases in high-end employment costs have been a significant driver of rising university costs.

We’ve probably all seen reports describing out-of-control higher education costs in the United States. An education that in the 1970s could be financed with some savings and a part-time job at the local Burger King will now cost you the equivalent of a down payment on a multi-family investment property.

Those increases are not just the result of regular inflation. When you track US college costs against consumer goods (as the economist Mark J. Perry did), you’ll see that, besides healthcare, rising college-related expenses are unlike anything else.

What changed? The word on the street is that those crazy tuition costs are mostly due to colleges hiring vast armies of non-teaching administrators.

But what about Canadian universities? Back in 2006–07, according to Statistics Canada, across all Canadian universities the average inflation-adjusted cost of one year’s undergraduate tuition was $17,363. Fast forward to 2023–24 – and that same tuition-only cost has now doubled to $34,628.

Note how I referred to those numbers as “costs.” That’s because $34,628 is what you’ll pay if you’re an international student without scholarships. Thanks to government subsidies, Canadians get a big discount. In fact, the average domestic student currently pays only $6,434. But it’s taxpayers who cover the difference.

So, tuition is rising far faster than inflation. But figuring out what’s behind those increases will take some work.

The rise of the university administrator

As the chart shows, since 2001, teaching jobs have dropped from accounting for 17.38 percent of all university positions down to 14.52 percent in 2022. In other words, universities are, proportionally, hiring teaching staff at significantly lower rates than they used to. But please do keep that “proportional” bit in the back of your mind, as we’ll come back to it later.

Source: Statistics Canada/The Audit

However, those numbers don’t tell us who universities are hiring instead of teaching staff. Perhaps they’re building up their food services, security, and custodial crews?

There is at least one identifiable subgroup that’s visibly ballooned: education support services. That North American Industry Classification System category (NAICS Code 6117) includes educational consultants, student exchange program coordinators, testing services, research and development, guidance counsellors, and tutoring and exam preparation services.

Since 2001, the proportion of support services staff in relation to all hires has more than doubled, from 1.06 percent to 2.62 percent. Their absolute numbers across Canada rose from 3,829 to 15,292. (Statistics Canada offers plenty of data and insights on the topics raised in this article. For further investigation, go herehere, and here).

That’s certainly an interesting trend. But an increase of just 1.5 percent isn’t enough to explain the tuition growth we’ve experienced. And I’m also not sure that the “education support services” category maps directly to the class of high-earning administrator they’re talking about in the US. It looks like we could use some more data.

Tracking Salary Changes in Ontario Universities

The year 1996 saw a welcome victory for government transparency when Ontario’s then-Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris mandated the annual disclosure of all public sector employees earning more than $100,000. Since that year, the Sunshine List, as it’s popularly known, has grown from just 4,500 names to more than 300,000. However, $100,000 won’t buy you what it once did – especially if you must live in Toronto.

Perhaps we could bring those numbers up to date. Using the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, I identified the inflation-adjusted value of 100,000 1996 dollars for 2003 and for 2023. I then identified the individuals on the list who were employed by universities in 2003 and in 2023 and whose salaries were above the inflation-adjusted thresholds. The new thresholds, by the way, were $117,000 for 2003 and $175,000 in 2023.

The first thing that hits you when you see the adjusted data is the explosive growth in hiring. Ontario universities (not including colleges) employed 2,191 individuals earning more than $117,000 in 2003. Twenty years later, the number of employees earning more than $175,000 had ballooned to 8,536. That’s 290 percent growth. The number of people with “dean” in their job description climbed from 195 to 488 during those years. And there are now 6,772 professors on the high earners’ list as opposed to just 1,782 back in 2003.

For context, Statistics Canada tells us that there were 397,776 students enrolled in Ontario universities in 2003 and 579,057 in 2022 (the latest year for which data is available). That’s an increase of 46 percent – which doesn’t justify the 60 percent jump we’ve seen in high-paid deans and the 74 percent increase in similarly high-paid professors.

I think things are starting to come into focus.

Now let’s find out what happened to salaries. Did you know that there’s a strategic management professor who’s earning more than $650,000 annually? And what about that hybrid dean/lecturer who’s pulling in close to $600,000?

Okay… those are probably outliers, and there isn’t much we can learn from them. However, I can tell you that the average university employee in our Sunshine List earned $140,660 back in 2003. Twenty years later, the inflation-adjusted equivalent of that salary would be $211,887. But in the real world – the one that those on the public payroll graciously agree to share with us – the average 2023 university employee on the list earned $220,404. That’s a difference of only 4 percent or so, but that’s after we already accounted for inflation.

Perhaps I can illustrate this another way. The sum of all university salaries above the $117,000 threshold in 2003 was around $308 million. In 2023 dollars, that would equal $464 million. But the actual sum of all 2023 salaries above $175,000 was $1.8 billion (with a “B”)!

So, yes, tuition has doubled since 2006–07. And it seems that dramatic increases in high-end employment costs have been a significant driver. As the taxpayers paying for most of this, there’s a question that we must ask ourselves: has the epic growth in university employment delivered value to Ontario – and to all Canada – at a scale that justifies those costs? In other words, are the students now graduating from Canadian schools equipped to successfully enter a demanding job market, navigate a fractured political environment, and strengthen weakened communities? Recent scenes from campus protests suggest that might not be the case.

David Clinton is the publisher of The Audit (www.theaudit.ca), a journal of data-driven policy analysis. He is also the author of books on data tools, cloud and Linux administration, and IT security.

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Economy

Trump’s Promise Of American Abundance, Fueled By ‘Liquid Gold’

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JAMES P. PINKERTON

 

One of the brightest nuggets of policy in Donald Trump’s July 18 acceptance speech to the Republican convention in Milwaukee was his ode to “liquid gold.” That is, oil.

As part of his inflation-fighting plan, Trump offered a gleaming solution: increase energy production, thereby decreasing energy prices. “By slashing energy costs,” Trump declared, “we will in turn reduce the cost of transportation, manufacturing and all household goods.”

He continued: “We have more liquid gold under our feet than any other country by far. We are a nation that has the opportunity to make an absolute fortune with its energy.”

Indeed. According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER) technically recoverable oil resources in the U.S. total 2.136 trillion barrels. At the current price of around $80 a barrel, that’s some $171 trillion. And so, Trump concluded, “we will reduce our debt, $36 trillion.”

As former Alaska governor Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha.” In Palin’s Alaska, oil is so abundant, relative to the population, that everyone gets a check from the state. Last year, it was $1,312. For a family of four, that’s more than $5000. Our goal should be that every American gets such an energy dividend.

Moreover, the abundance of America’s carbon fuels is not limited to oil. According to IER, we have 3.391 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s worth $165 trillion.

To be sure, these staggering dollar totals can’t be counted directly against the national debt—or in support of some future tax cut. Yet every dollar of our energy assets would contribute to the economy, and if even 10  percent of the humongous total could be available to the public, we could, in fact, pay off the national debt.

Moreover, thanks to fracking and other enhanced recovery techniques, we keep finding more energy: Human ingenuity has upended old beliefs about energy shortages, ushering in an almost Moore’s Law-ish surge in production.

Indeed, there’s so much oil and gas (and coal) that an emerging school of thought holds that carbon fuels aren’t “fossil” at all, but rather, the product of earth’s vulcanism. The core of this earth, after all, is the same temperature as the surface of the sun. Perhaps all that heat is cooking something.

In any case, we keep finding more oil, and not just in the U.S.

So how, exactly, do we take advantage of this planetary cornucopia? As Palin said, as Trump said, and as the convention crowd chanted, “drill, baby, drill.”

Okay, but what about climate change? Most Republicans don’t worry too much about that, but if Democrats do, they should be reassured that we can capture the carbon and so take it out of the atmosphere. Trees and other green vegetation have been capturing carbon for eons; the element is, in fact, vital to their very existence. Similarly, the human body is 18 percent carbon. Yes, all of us ourselves are carbon sinks.

So we, being smart, can capture vastly more carbon — capturing it in everything from wood to cement, from plastics to nanotubes. These in turn can be landfill, construction materials — maybe even a space elevator.

We can, in fact, establish a a circular carbon economy: carbon fuels extracted, burned, and then recycled back into feedstocks. By this reckoning, carbon fuels are renewable. Such creative thinking can power all those energy-hungry data centers on which Big Tech and AI depend. So there’s the makings of a bipartisan “Grand Carbon Bargain,” uniting mostly blue-state tech with mostly red-state energy. More energy + more tech = more wealth for all.

In Milwaukee, Trump spoke of American “energy dominance,” and that’s great. But with all the energy we can produce and consume, we can speak of economic abundance — and that’s even greater.

James P. Pinkerton served in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is the author, most recently, of “The Secret of Directional Investing: Making Money Amidst the Red-Blue Rumble.”

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Trudeau pledges another $500 million to Ukraine as Canadian military suffers

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

Despite the nation’s own armed forces grappling with an alarming recruitment crisis, Justin Trudeau and his government have poured over $13.3 billion into Ukraine.

More Canadians tax dollars are being sent overseas as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised an additional $500 million in military aid to Ukraine. 

During a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trudeau announced that he would send another $500 million to Ukraine as it continues its war against Russia, despite an ongoing decline in Canada’s military recruitment.  

“We’re happy to offer we’re announcing today $500 million more military aid this year for Ukraine, to help through this very difficult situation,” Trudeau said. 

In addition to the $500 million, Canada will also provide much of Ukraine’s fighter jet pilot training as Ukraine receives its first F-16s. 

Trudeau’s statement comes after Canada has been under fire for failing to meet NATO’s mandate that all members commit at least two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the military alliance. 

According to his 2024 budget, Trudeau plans to spend $8.1 billion over five years, starting in 2024-25, and $73.0 billion over 20 years on the Department of National Defence.   

Interestingly, $8.1 billion divided equally over five years is $1,620,000 each year for the Canadian military. Therefore, Trudeau’s pledge of $500 million means he is spending just under a third on Ukraine compared to what he plans to spend on Canadians.  

Indeed, Trudeau seems reluctant to spend money on the Canadian military, as evidenced when Canadian troops in Latvia were forced to purchase their own helmets and food when the Trudeau government failed to provide proper supplies.  

Weeks later, Trudeau lectured the same troops on “climate change” and disinformation.       

However, at the same time, Trudeau readily sends Canadian tax dollars overseas to Ukraine. Since the Russia-Ukraine war began in 2022, Canada has given Ukraine over $13.3 billion, including $4 billion in direct military assistance.    

In May, Trudeau’s office announced $3.02 billion in funding for Ukraine, including millions of taxpayer dollars to promote “gender-inclusive demining.”  

Trudeau’s ongoing funding for Ukraine comes as many Canadians are struggling to pay for basics such as food, shelter, and heating. According to a recent government report, fast-rising food costs in Canada have led to many people feeling a sense of “hopelessness and desperation” with nowhere to turn for help.  

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