Data Check: With PSE funding, Ontario treads water…at the bottom of the ocean

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The most recent data indicate that operating funding provided to Ontario universities by the provincial government is in a holding pattern when compared to other provinces. For 2010-11, per student funding was 34 per cent lower than in the rest of Canada, the same gap as 2009-10. Ontario remains dead last in terms of public operating funding per student.
There is no doubt that increased funding under the Liberal government’s Reaching Higher plan reduced the shortfall from 26 per cent (in 2005) to 19 per cent. But the effect proved temporary when enrolment increases exceeded expectations. The gains were erased after three short years. Although inflation-adjusted funding rose by six per cent in Ontario since Reaching Higher was announced, it rose 16 per cent in the rest of Canada.
The latest provincial budget promises to maintain support for enrolment increases through a separate funding envelope, even as it calls for funding reductions in other areas. But without increases to base operating funding, the net effect – especially after adjusting for inflation – will be to reduce the level of per student funding further. Even without knowing what enrolment patterns and funding practices will be in other provinces, it is hard to see how Ontario will close our funding gap with the rest of Canada –  the worst we’ve seen in thirty years.
Sources: Canadian Association of University Business Officers, Financial Information of Universities and Colleges; Quebec institutions’ financial statements for 2009-10 and 2010-11
Statistics Canada, Postsecondary Student Information System; for enrolments 2010-11: Association of Atlantic Universities; Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec; Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Training; Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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