For the first time ever, tuition fee revenue has exceeded public operating funding for Ontario’s universities. Tuition fees now account for almost 51 per cent of the university operating budgets across the province.
“Our universities are meant to be public – that is, supported by public dollars,” said Kate Lawson, President of OCUFA. “The fact that students and their families are now shouldering the majority of the cost of higher education should be cause for concern and reflection.”
The funding figures were published in the latest data release from the Council of Ontario Financial Officers – Universities of Ontario (COFO-UO) as part of their Financial Report of Ontario Universities 2013-14. The COFO-UO data demonstrates that even when scholarships and other forms of institutional financial aid are subtracted from student fees, tuition revenue is still higher than public funding.
Ontario has the highest tuition fees in Canada, and the lowest level of per-student public funding. Given these facts, the eclipsing of public funding by tuition fees had become inevitable in recent years. However, it need not be a permanent state of affairs.
OCUFA has been advocating for renewed public investment in our universities, most recently in its 2015 Ontario Pre-Budget Submission Not only does public investment in universities improve learning quality and support accessibility, it also has significant economic returns. A recent Conference Board of Canada report found that for every dollar invested in universities, $1.36 is returned to the local community and to the province.
“Ontario’s professors and academic librarians recognize the government is facing financial constraints,” said Lawson. “But we simply can’t afford to not invest in our universities. They are pillars of our communities and essential treasuries of our shared public wealth. We must ensure that they remain that way.”