09/11/2013 07:43 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

University tuition fees rising to record levels in Canada

The cost of a university degree in Canada is getting steeper, with tuition and other compulsory fees expected to have quadrupled from 1990 to 2017, adjusting for inflation, and students in Ontario are paying most, according to research by a policy think-tank.

Average fees have increased from $1,464 in 1990-91 to $6,348 in 2012-13, and they are expected to climb to $7,437 in 2016-17. This fall, they are predicted to be $6,610, according to a report released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, titled "Degrees of Uncertainty: Navigating the Changing Terrain of University Finance," is by the centre's senior economist, David Macdonald, and co-authors Erika Shaker, director of the education project, and Nigel Wodrich, an economics and politics student at the University of Ottawa.

"Some provincial governments are taking notice of and responding to growing public concern over student debt loads, economic and employment uncertainty, and the long-term ramifications being felt by students and their families," they write. "These responses have not resulted in across-the-board fee reductions.

"Provincial governments have largely preferred to go the route of directed assistance measures," the Ottawa-based centre adds, noting that students are increasingly having to turn to loans, grants and bursaries, tax credits and loans forgiveness to work their way toward a post-secondary education.

"While this does impact in-province affordability, it … creates a situation where the only students who leave the province to pursue a degree are the ones who can afford to."

Newfoundland and Labrador, where tuition fees have been frozen since 2003-04, has the lowest tuition and other compulsory fees in Canada, with universities charging an average of $2,872 this fall. The cost is expected to rise to $2,886 in 2016-17, according to the report by the independent, non-profit institute.

More to come