How Long Will You Work to Pay Your Tuition?

Finally, some good news for arts and humanities grads.

It seems that they won't have to work as many minimum-wage hours as most other grads to pay for their degree!

Now they've got ammunition for those online discussions about student debt. You know, the ones where the trolls blame indebted grads for taking arts and humanities. Quit whining, they yell, you just had to take engineering. 

By the simple law of supply and demand, I'd guess that if everyone took engineering, it would soon pay a buck an hour. But that's still theoretical.

Never mind. Today, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released an 'app for that' as the saying goes.

Their new interactive graphic lets you compare education costs across time and provinces.

And yes, you can compare degree programs by how long you'd have to work at minimum wage to pay a year of average tuition.

This tool should help everyone from families to policymakers when it comes to education cost-analysis.

I found other surprises in the app, besides the good showing (2nd best) for arts and humanities. 

The #1 easiest degree to pay off with minimum wage? Education!

Good thing too because it can take years for young teachers to go from on-call to full-time.

And if you can get your head around herb-farming or buffalo-herding, agriculture stands up rather well. Compared to financing a business degree, that is.

Of course, the logic behind these price differentials is that grads from costly degree programs won't need to work at minimum wage.  

Sounds reasonable. Now tell that to some rather bitter grads! 

Back to the app. You can pick your province to compare tuition trends. Or go straight to the degree programs. The page may load for a few secs, as it's packed. 

One caution. You can't squeeze every detail into infographics. Here are two examples:

First, when comparing tuition rates between provinces, the infographic mentions a 2% annual cap on tuition increases in BC. Yes, but there's a catch. As campus decisionmakers know, you can totally re-price programs by restructuring them. So BC's tuition cap has a hole in it. 

Second, the CCPA recognizes an objection from Nova Scotia's Minister of Higher Education to the app's use of use of weighted averages from Statistics Canada. The Minister feels that weighted averages cover the fact that Nova Scotia students effectively pay lower tuition than students coming there from elsewhere.  

That second point (an in-province bursary cuts tuition costs) is noted on the Nova Scotia page of the app. But it's easy to lose track of program-based details like this.

So I'd suggest you use statistical tools like this one as your starting point. Then do your own final checks before making decisions, such as cutting your tuition costs by studying X program in Y province.

Not everything can get packed into one tool. But this one clearly took considerable research to create.

Kudos to CCPA for their helpful education-cost app


© Jeannine Mitchell 2014