Canadians overwhelmingly feel that governments, not students, should make up gaps in university funding, according to a poll for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
Tuition fees in Canada have continued to rise to shore up the lower operating fund grants from provincial governments.
The survey found that Canadians want the government to take on a higher proportion of the cost.
Seventy-nine per cent of the 1,550 respondents said that the government, via increased grants to universities, should pay for expansion in a country dealing with rising enrolments.
The poll, conducted by the market research firm Ekos, found that an overwhelming majority wanted the federal government to invest more in higher education.
Most of those polled agreed that long-term investments in society and in individual graduates made good sense for the government.
Two-thirds of respondents said that universities would not have enough space to accommodate the projected increase in student numbers.
In what might be seen as an unflinching belief in wide access, just 5 per cent more people disagreed than agreed that a place for every qualified student should be guaranteed, even if it means a decrease in quality.
The poll also showed that the public agreed that a university degree could help graduates in a number of ways, such as providing career advancement opportunities, increasing lifetime earnings and improving quality of life.
Lawrence Aronovitch, director of government relations at the AUCC, said the results mirrored what the organisation's members had been saying about who should be responsible for paying for a university education.
He said he was hopeful that the new prime minister, Paul Martin, would take into consideration the call for more public funding for universities when the government presented its throne speech on February 2.
"The government is in the business of making choices about priorities. This poll says that this is a priority for Canadians."