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News / Ontario: Blue-ribbon panel calls for increased post-secondary funding

News / Ontario: Blue-ribbon panel calls for increased post-secondary funding

A government-appointed “blue-ribbon panel” concluded last November that Ontario’s post-secondary education faces a growing financial strain.

The panel of experts recommended “direct provincial support for colleges and universities, providing for both more money per student and more students.”

The panel’s report, Ensuring Financial Sustainability for Ontario’s Postsecondary Sector, called for a one-time 10 per cent increase to per student nominal operating grants followed by a minimum two per cent annual increase for the next three to five years.

The panel of experts said that faculty salary and benefit costs did not cause the financial pressures faced by post-secondary institutions. In Ontario universities, salaries per FTE student are among the lowest across the country.

The Ford government mandated a 10 per cent domestic tuition reduction in 2019 and has kept tuition fees frozen.

The panel urged the province to end the domestic student tuition freeze starting in 2024-2025 with a one-time five per cent tuition increase or eight per cent for professional programs in universities and high-demand programs in colleges.

The panel also recommended subsequent cost-of-living increases. The panel highlighted the risks of relying on the revenue generated from high international student fees.

In 2020-2021, international students generated 31 per cent of total revenue for Ontario colleges and just under 20 per cent for universities. They noted that many universities and colleges cannot survive financially without the revenue generated from international students.

The panel’s report pushed back on the Ford government’s plan to move away from a mostly enrolment-based funding model to one 60 per cent driven by “performance.”

The panel recommended a 10 per cent cap on the performance-based funding envelope for 2023-2024, with a five per cent annual increase to no more than 25 per cent by 2026-2027.

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