The Ontario government is lowering the cap on average tuition fee increases for public post-secondary institutions over the next four years.

Under the new framework announced Thursday, annual fee increases will be capped at an average of three per cent for the next four years.

Previously, colleges and universities were allowed to raise  tuition by an average of five per cent. The difference means the average annual tuition at an Ontario university will rise above the $8,000 mark.

The province argues the fee system can still be flexible — with some programs increasing more and some less as long as an institution's tuition increases average three per cent a year overall.

Tuition for professional and graduate university programs and high-demand college programs may be increased by up to five per cent — down from eight per cent previously.

Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities says the new tuition policy "strikes a balance" between increasing affordability for students while helping institutions with long-term financial stability.