Today, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities Brad Duguid announced a new tuition framework for Ontario’s higher education institutions. The new policy caps yearly increases for undergraduates at 3 per cent (down from 5 per cent under the previous framework, while graduate and professional fees will increase by 5 per cent (down from 8 per cent). Total institutional increases are also capped at 3 per cent. The Minister also announced that steps will be taken to align OSAP payments to fee deadlines, in order to help students avoid late penalties.
The new framework will last for four years.
While controlling tuition fee increases is an important first step to restoring affordability to Ontario’s universities, the new policy does not go far enough. OCUFA has long recommended that tuition fees in Ontario be frozen, with compensatory public funding provided to universities for lost tuition fee revenue. The new tuition framework does not have any provision for increased per-student funding for universities.
OCUFA is concerned that the new policy continues the slow privatization of Ontario’s universities by shifting costs onto students and their families. Students now pay for nearly 50 per cent of the operating budgets of universities (and at some institutions, more than half). The only way to ensure that our universities are accessible and high quality is through robust public investment. Unfortunately, the Government of Ontario is actually cutting funding to Ontario’s universities ($40 million this year, and $81 million next year, from both colleges and universities), fueling the ongoing decline in per-student funding. Ontario has the worst level of per-student public funding in Canada, and this framework will put the province even further behind.
In our 2013 Budget submission, OCUFA urges the Government to begin re-investing in universities now by freezing tuition, providing compensatory funding, hiring new full-time faculty, and increasing per-student funding to the national average by 2020.