2012 vs. 1984: Comparing the costs of tuition and housing

One of Canada’s best finance journalists, Rob Carrick, wrote this piece in response to the furious protests being held by students in Quebec regarding skyrocketing tuition fees and living expenses.

The Globe And Mail – 2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today

All young adults who think they’re getting a raw deal in today’s economy, let me tell you about how it was back in my day.

In 1984, my final undergraduate year of university, tuition cost more or less $1,000. I earned that much in a summer without breaking a sweat.

When I went looking for a new car in 1986, the average cost was roughly half of what it is now. It was totally affordable.

The average price of a house in Toronto back in 1984 was just over $96,000. I wasn’t buying just then, but it’s worth noting that the average family after-tax income back then was close to $50,000. Buy a first home? Easy to imagine for new graduates of the day.

After earning a three-year BA (majoring in political science) at York University in Toronto back in 1984, I landed a summer job as a copy editor at The Canadian Press, the national wire service. I earned enough to spend a year in Ottawa earning a bachelor of journalism degree at Carleton University. I had to work the Christmas holidays at CP to top up my savings, but I was financially self-sufficient and incurred zero debt.

Today, financial self-sufficiency is impossible without taking breaks from school to work. The Bank of Canada’s handy inflation calculator tells us that my $1,000 tuition back in 1984 would cost $2,028 today if it increased just by the inflation rate annually. But according to Statistics Canada, the latest read on average tuition fees is $5,366.

In Ontario, the minimum wage is $10.25. A student who puts in a 40-hour work week for 12 weeks would stand to make about $4,900. That’s a sizable shortfall on tuition, never mind the cost of student fees, books and living expenses.

There’s even a table of housing prices embedded in the bottom of the article that I’ve replicated below:

Region Average Price 1984 Price Today If Homes Had Risen by the Inflation Rate Since 1984 Actual Average Price Today
Canada $76,214 $154,587 $369,677
Vancouver $116,444 $236,187 $761,742
Calgary $94,154 $190,976 $409,750
Toronto $96,078 $194,878 $504,117
Montreal $66,116 $134,105 $318,400
Halifax-Dartmouth $71,950 $145,939 $272,599

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *