How do we compare on tuition?

In the past few days we have had many questions and comments posted with regard to tuition and would like to take a moment respond to some of these.

We understand that students do not want to pay more. No one would. Costs of many things go up from year to year, and this includes the costs of running a university. Students are paying 23% of the operating revenue of the U of S, a relatively constant share that has not increased more than a fraction of a percentage point in years. Not only are students at the U of S paying a constant share, this is a lesser share than at most other universities. We appreciate that paying this share may be difficult for some students (and/or their parents in some cases). Our university is working to help those who face particular barriers by increasing the numbers of scholarships and bursaries, offering learn-where-you live distributed education to keep living costs lower, and developing great support services for Indigenous learners.

Many have asked why there is information online indicating the U of S the second highest tuition rates in Canada. This information is based on an annual report released by StatsCanada. The U of S compares program by program, while StatsCanada averages all undergraduate programs. Because a particularly high proportion of Saskatchewan students are enrolled in professional programs (such as Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, Law and Nursing) these drag up the StatsCanada average. A university that has proportionately more Law and Medicine students is reported by StatsCanada as having higher tuition fees, even if the Law fees are lower than other law schools, Medicine lower than other med schools etc.

Here are a few samples of what our research has shown us in terms of how we compare:

Domestic student tuition and fee (projected rates 14-15)* U15 minimum U15 maximum U15 median U of S (announced rates) U of S variance from median
Arts and Science $3,730 $8,149 $6,874 $6,174 11.4%
AgBio $4,464 $8,162 $6,583 $6,207 6.1%
Education $3,828 $8,215 $7,073 $6,184 14.4%
Engineering $5,610 $14,110 $8,365 $8,232 1.6%
Medicine $8,377 $26,234 $17,610 $16,074 9.6%
Graduate MA $4,048 $10,398 $7,653 $4,048 89%

(*Note: These do not include health and dental fees as students have the ability to opt out)

Overall, in the last two years we have seen record numbers of students; postsecondary participation rates are growing; SK students are repaying their debt quickly; and job prospects for graduates are very good. The lifetime benefits of a university degree greatly outweigh the costs, but we are also working hard to keep the costs down through workforce planning, TransformUS, and other strategies to find efficiencies and reduce spending. The work the university does to reduce costs is part of what keeps tuition fees relatively lower than at peer universities. We set tuition fees according to principles, not just to cover the university’s cost increases.

Within our budget, we also prioritize to improve programs and services every year. In the last five years the U of S has directed funding internally to expand scholarships, create learning communities, build new residences, improve food services, and create new opportunities for undergraduate students to have hands-on experience in research. We believe the U of S offers good value to students: excellent faculty, programs, staff, and services, and a lower cost than most of our peers.

We would like to thank those who have weighed in and asked great questions about tuition and how it all works – the dialogue has been valuable to us. For answers to many more questions, we have updated our tuition website to include a frequently asked questions section. We hope this is helpful in providing answers to many more questions than we are able to on our blog.


8 thoughts on “How do we compare on tuition?

  1. I’m sure that you didn’t mean this sentence to sound as cold-blooded as it does, especially in its latter half: “The lifetime benefits of a university degree greatly outweigh the costs, but we are also working hard to keep the costs down through workforce planning, TransformUS, and other strategies to find efficiencies and reduce spending.” A fair translation of that sentence might be, “we will fire more employees to keep costs down so that more students can afford to attend.”

    It sounds rather like a twist on what a company’s board might say to its shareholders: “We will fire more employees to keep costs down so that the value of your shares does not decrease.”

    I’m curious as to whether you accept the gist of that comparison (acknowledging, of course, that all comparisons are imperfect ones).

    • It’s true that your translation sounds cold-blooded, but I would not agree it is a fair translation of my words.

      It’s important to remember that budgets do involve trade-offs, such as between protecting more jobs or charging students higher fees. It’s actually impossible by definition to avoid such choices, since budgets deal with limited resources. I recognize that all who could be affected – students, staff, faculty, alumni – may feel strongly. In connection with tuition fees, several students wrote on this blog or by e-mail to speculate or ask about the connection between student fees and TransformUS, so I considered it important to respond to those comments.

      • I understand the nature of our disagreement of how your original statement might best be parsed, and believe me when I say that I do not in the least envy your having to issue statements on so delicate an issue. My intent was not to criticize but rather to offer a critique that might engender further discussion. (Hopefully from people other than just you and I!)

        That said, I’d invite you to comment on the ways in which my comparison veers off course in your opinion. I’m sure those reading would find it edifying. As I suggested, the analogy I made is no doubt a false one; could you kindly explain why you think that this is so, for the benefit of those who might find a more ready purchase on the analogy than on the (for many) as yet abstract case of the current budgetary process?


      • Hi there, Brett.

        I’ll try to come at this another way.

        I appreciate that you might find the “stockholder” analogy unsavory. So do I. But many on campus find your well-worn “household budget” analogy equally unsavory; in fact, from what I’m hearing, many on campus find it offensive. Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in Economics, has debunked the “household budget” analogy in another context. Large institutional bodies are simply not analogous to families. It’s rather like saying that my kids’ bedrooms are entirely analagous to the entire universe because they also obey the second law of thermodynamics, or that my cat is analgous to a herd of buffalo because they both have fur. It’s a gross oversimplication. (Krugman’s full article is available here (

        Speaking, again, as a Council member who voted in favour of program prioritization but who laments the lack of engagement in this across the campus community, I invite you to parse what you see to be the differences between your “family household” analogy and my “stockholders” analogy. I, for one, would welcome the clarification–particularly in light of today’s provincial budget.



        • Let me begin by thanking you for engaging in debate – I appreciate this very much.

          I am sorry that anyone would think that a household is an unsavoury comparison for a university. I would say though that such an analogy is not “well-worn” for me, as I do not recall having used it much at all prior to the February council meeting. It is a conscious simplification, used for a minute or two, to help frame complex issues for the wide audience that was in the room that day, many of whom have not spent a lot of time on university budgeting.

          The central point is that universities must live within our means, match our expenditures to our revenues, and balance our budgets in the long term. Does anyone seriously contend that this point is not correct? If the point is correct, then the analogy is a reasonable one as analogies go – it is not comparing incidental features of household and university budgets, but rather fundamental ones.

          I read the Krugman article and do not understand the relevance. His argument was about governments. It is true that governments can create money, run deficits, and spend counter-cyclically. Universities cannot.

          I want to emphasize a point I may not have stressed sufficiently: every organization that works with limited resources must plan and must prioritize in its budgeting. In this respect one can compare a university to a nonprofit housing co-operative, a mutual insurance company, an NGO, a ministry within government, a family farm, a home-based business, or indeed a shareholder corporation. Out of all of these, I do not see any special connection to the dynamics of a joint-stock company. Such a company exists, as you describe it, to maximize the value of shares. I see no equivalent to that in a university. As I indicated in my first academic address in 2009, it is a better fit to see a university as a not-for-profit corporation balancing multiple objectives, governed in stewardship for the public interest.

          • As always, I appreciate your thoughtful reply, even though I disagree with some parts of it. Thanks very much.

  2. Hi there,
    Being an international grad (PhD) I am very much concerned about the tuition fee hike in U of S. I think we are the worst affected people at this situation. Since the international students pays additional tuition fee, even now, the sum total of tuition fee + the University residence fee is almost equal to the average monthly fellowship, which means the students will be left with no money even for their daily bread. Since most of the PhD programme demands a busy schedule for research, it is hard to find time for additional income other than fellowship.
    Its a humble request to the concerned people to consider the well being of the international students of U of S too.

    • We appreciate your comments. The Graduate Student Association has been very helpful in informing us about this issue and the broader issue of graduate stipend rates. In the past year the PhD stipend was increased in the interim as we await the recommendations of a broader student financial aid review.

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