Ontario Premier rejects tuition hike for post-secondary students amid financial crisis

Ontario Premier rejects tuition hike for post-secondary students amid financial crisis

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that he is not in favour of increasing tuition fees for post-secondary students in the province, despite the financial challenges faced by colleges and universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s own policy decisions.

Ford says tuition freeze will continue

Ford said on Wednesday that he does not want to burden students with higher costs, especially those who are struggling financially during the health crisis. He said his government will continue to freeze tuition fees for domestic students, which was implemented in 2019 along with a 10 per cent cut.

I just don’t believe this is the time to go into these students’ pockets, especially the ones that are really struggling, and ask for a tuition increase,” Ford said at a news conference about combating car theft.

The premier said his government will work with colleges and universities to find efficiencies and support them in any way possible. He also suggested that some classes with low enrolment are unacceptable and should be consolidated.

Ontario Premier rejects tuition hike for post-secondary students amid financial crisis

Colleges and universities face revenue shortfall

The tuition freeze and cut for domestic students, who make up about 70 per cent of the post-secondary enrolment in Ontario, has resulted in a significant loss of revenue for colleges and universities. According to a report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, the policy reduced the operating revenue of the sector by $440 million in 2019-20 and $360 million in 2020-21.

To compensate for the shortfall, many institutions have increased their reliance on international students, who pay much higher fees and are not subject to the freeze. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of international students, as travel restrictions, visa delays and health risks have deterred many from coming to Canada.

Moreover, the federal government recently introduced a cap on the number of study permits issued to international students over the next two years, in order to address the housing crisis and the quality of education. The cap will reduce the number of new permits for Ontario by 50 per cent, which will further affect the revenue of colleges and universities.

Panel recommends tuition increase and more funding

A government-commissioned panel, led by former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark, released a report in December 2023 that recommended the province to unfreeze tuition fees, increase student aid and boost operating grants to colleges and universities. The panel said the current funding model is unsustainable and unfair, as it forces institutions to rely on international students to cross-subsidize domestic students.

The panel also said that the tuition freeze and cut has reduced the accessibility and quality of post-secondary education in Ontario, as it has reduced the financial aid available to low-income students and the resources available to instructors and researchers. The panel urged the government to adopt a more balanced and evidence-based approach to funding post-secondary education, which would benefit both students and institutions.

However, the government has not yet responded to the panel’s report, other than saying that it would work with the sector to find solutions. The government has also imposed a moratorium on new public-private partnerships between colleges and foreign institutions, which was seen as a way to attract more international students.

Students and faculty react to Ford’s stance

The announcement by Ford that he does not want to raise tuition fees has drawn mixed reactions from students and faculty groups. Some students welcomed the decision, saying that it would ease their financial stress and allow them to focus on their studies. Others said that the tuition freeze is not enough, and that the government should invest more in post-secondary education and student aid.

Faculty groups, on the other hand, criticized Ford’s stance, saying that it ignores the reality of the financial crisis faced by colleges and universities. They said that the tuition freeze and cut has eroded the quality of education and research, and that the government should reverse its policy and increase its funding to the sector. They also said that the government should consult with students and faculty before making any decisions that affect post-secondary education.

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