Nothing new for Universities in the Ontario Throne Speech and Economic Statement

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They say no news is good news. But where this week’s Throne Speech and Economic Update is concerned, no news is just no news.

Tuesday’s Throne speech reiterated the Liberal Government’s higher education campaign pledges – 60,000 new student places at colleges and universities, three new ‘undergraduate campuses’ and a tuition rebate. We have some concerns with these proposals (go here for our analysis), but the big problem is the lack of new funding for quality improvements like hiring new faculty and renewing facilities and libraries. All new funding is going to the tuition rebate and new student spaces, not to increasing Ontario’s basement-dwelling level of per-student funding.

The Economic Update was similarly vague. Aside from a general commitment to “protect education and healthcare”, Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan provided no specifics on higher education. He did say that spending increases would be limited to one per cent per year. If this is true, then per-student funding for universities will actually decline in real terms over the coming years, especially as enrolment continues to climb.  Duncan’s one per cent isn’t protecting our universities, it’s just not cutting their funding outright.

The Liberals have hitched their wagon to Don Drummond’s review of the Ontario Public Service, so there will likely be few concrete policy proposals until Mr. Drummond releases his report (a preliminary draft is expected in January). Drummond has a wide mandate, so we will have to wait and see what his recommendations include. Again, it is unlikely that he will recommend cuts to healthcare or education. But we shouldn’t expect him to advocate for bold new investments, either.

OCUFA will continue to monitor the Government’s plans for higher education, and will provide an in-depth analysis of the Drummond report once it is made public.                            

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