The average annual increase of 1.9 per cent in postsecondary and training announced in the recently tabled provincial budget may bring a sigh of relief in some corners. At first pass, it does seem better than the 1.5 per cent average recommended by the Drummond Commission.
A closer look is far more disturbing.
The projected 1.9 per cent increase is based on “all-in” expenditures by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), including operating and capital funding for universities and colleges, student support, and employment and training programs. Plans for the next three years of operating funding for universities actually limit increases to an average of 1.1 per cent per year.
Operating funding per funding-eligible student will decline once enrolment growth and the budget’s own assumptions for GDP inflation are taken into account. Per student funding has in fact been in decline since the financial crisis hit in 2008-09. The budget does nothing to help. By 2014-15, OCUFA projects that public operating funding for universities will drop by 16 per cent. This is a huge loss in revenue that, if left unfilled, will damage the quality of higher education in Ontario. History tells us that institutions will attempt to fill the gap with higher tuition fees, continuing the unsustainable shift of costs onto students.