Data Check: Per-student funding at lowest point since the 1960s

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Fifty years ago, the Government of Ontario began to invest in the university sector, increasing the number of institutions and the spaces available to qualified students. This has allowed us to make huge gains in access and quality. But now, we’re on the precipice of undoing a half century of accomplishments.

Ontario’s per-student funding for universities is already the lowest in Canada. And it is getting worse. Even before inflation is taken into account, per student funding has been heading downward since 2010-11. After inflation, it is now at its lowest point since the government began building capacity and expanding access in the sixties. That’s right- we’re approaching a 50-year low in per-student investment in our universities.

Falling per-student funding means students are left to pick up the financial slack. Operating revenue from Ontario’s tuition fees – the highest in Canada – already surpassed government grants last year. The data from 2014-15 confirms this trend. Once scholarships paid from operating funds are taken into account (subtracted from student fees and total revenue), net operating revenue from students amounts to 50 per cent.

Unless the provincial government decides to reverse these trends now, and invest more money than it has proposed to date, the quality of Ontario universities will fall further behind and even more costs will be shifted onto students and their families. Think we can’t afford to invest in universities? Consider these alternatives.

Council of Ontario Finance Officers, Financial Report of Ontario Universities
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, USER Data (University Statistical Enrolment Report)
Statistics Canada, Table 384-0039 Implicit price indexes, gross domestic product, provincial and territorial, annual (2007=100) [years before 1981 indexed to GDP inflation for Canada]

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