New report shows province needs to double current funding to Ontario universities

Posted on December 7, 2023 in Education Delivery System

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December 1, 2023.   By Tina Yazdani and Meredith Bond

A new report is highlighting the consequences of provincial funding cuts to public universities and imploring the Ontario government to double its current funding.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario office said cuts have put the financial stability of Ontario universities at serious risk and students are paying the price.

It found that the province would have to increase funding from just under $8,300 per student to more than $16,000 per student just to reach the average funding level of other provinces.

The report found between 2018 and 2022, university operating revenues from the provincial government and domestic student fees was reduced by $3,200 per student.

The funding reductions have led to domestic students paying tuition fees that are 24 per cent higher than the average for the rest of Canada.

Author of the report, Randy Robinson, said the increases in tuitions could have long-term consequences.

“Obviously when you put the price of something up, demand goes down. Standard procedure. One of the things about universities though, is people who want to go to university will do a lot to go university. So they will go into that debt and it’s hard to say what the impact will be, but it can’t be positive.

It has also led to the over-reliance on international students to fund universities, exploitation of low-paid contract faculty, reduced funding for research and growing class sizes.

Currently international students are paying an average $40,200 a year, more than five times higher than a domestic student.

“It’s not fair to treat these international students as cash cows. Ontario’s just over the top,” said Robinson.

Khalid Ibrahim is a second year international student from Egypt, who said he is “absolutely shocked” when he hears how much some of his friends are paying in tuition.

“I’m in computer science and my total tuition for a year is $30,000. And it’s so much that I can’t even like pay it in one go. I have to pay over the course of four months. So then I have late fees on top of that.

“It’s just … a lot more pressure. Because I mean, if I failed a course, that’s like $3,000 gone right there,” said “It is kind of affecting my mental state somewhat because when I do fail, it’s like 10 times worse.”

The increases in tuition have also led to a subsequent increase in student debt. In 2005, the inflation-adjust average of household student debt was $16,400. In 2019, that has grown to $23,100, more than $5,000 above the rest of Canada average.

The group is urging the province to also restore levels of funding through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) in the form of non-repayable grants. In 2019, $2.08 billion was offered to students in the form of grants. It was reduced to $1 billion in 2020.

Robinson said the consequences of someone taking on student debt can be felt for years.

“You are probably spending 10,12,15 years repaying it and you never catch up. You can be 65 years old, and you can still tell the difference between someone who has student debt and someone who didn’t,” said Robinson.

Robinson said they haven’t received any response from the government.

“We’re really trying to spark debate in the public, get faculty, get staff, get students talking about what’s really going on in the university system because it’s not good. As I say we’re the worst in Canada when it comes to funding our public universities and that’s shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.”

Earlier this month, experts appointed by the province proposed a five per cent tuition hike and a 10 per cent boost in provincial funding.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Colleges and University Jill Dunlop, tells CityNews they are carefully reviewing these recommendations to create a path forward, but added they need to ensure that colleges and universities are taking the necessary steps to ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible.

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