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OSV responds to the Post-Secondary Education Sustainability Fund and Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024.

On February 26th, 2024, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities announced an investment of $1.3 billion in Ontario's post-secondary education system. This investment includes the newly established post-secondary Education Sustainability Fund, which will distribute $903 million over three years, with an additional $203 million designated to support institutions facing greater financial challenges. The government's decision to freeze domestic tuition over the next three years is commendable, and it ensures that higher education remains accessible to a wider range of students, regardless of their financial background. Keeping tuition fees at a consistent level will help alleviate financial strain on students and their families. While this funding is a welcome step towards stabilizing the education sector during these challenging times, it is clear that there is still a long way to go when it comes to addressing the chronic underfunding of post-secondary institutions in Ontario. 


Being cognizant of the current challenges is key to understanding the issue. Ontario consistently lags behind other provinces and territories, often holding the last position when it comes to per-student funding. This problem has been amplified by persistent defunding, with public contributions to college revenues dropping from 54.4% in 2008/2009 to 32.2% in 2019. The predicament escalates with the reliance on international student fees to balance revenue deficits, despite international students paying $46,433 compared to domestic students' $8,190. The sustainability of such a model is questionable, this is evident from the auditor general's report, which cites international student enrolment as the primary reason for some colleges' financial stability. The hyper-reliance on international students is further highlighted by a huge 342% increase in their enrolments from 2012/13 to 2020/21, In 2020, these international students constituted a significant 33% of college revenues, compared to government grants providing only 22%. Financially, the scenario worsens with the federal government's new policy to cut international student intake by 35%, threatening the sector's stability. The latest funding package barely scratches the surface of the immense deficit caused by inflation and decreased international student revenues. Therefore, Ontario urgently needs to bump up its per-student funding to match the national average, in addition to a significant funding boost for colleges, ensuring the survival and success of its higher education institutions.


The government also announced The Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024, that if passed will promote transparency in the tuition fee structure by compelling colleges and universities to disclose information about ancillary fees and other student expenses, such as costs for textbooks or learning materials, promote mental health and wellness on campuses and combat racism and hate by mandating policies in these areas. This is a positive step towards greater transparency in tuition, this transparency empowers students and their families to make more informed financial decisions by providing a clearer understanding of the overall costs associated with their education. OSV is pleased that funding is being provided to tackle mental mental health issues among students and policies will be put in place to enhance accessibility to crucial resources and support systems. 


Ontario Student Voices (OSV) recognises and appreciates the government's initiative to address the issues facing the higher education system. We emphasise the importance of considering further actions as suggested by the Blue-Ribbon Panel, which include raising operating grants and increasing per-students funding. OSV remains optimistic that the government will continue to collaborate with educational institutions in the pursuit of a more economically viable model to ensure the sustainability of the sector and ensure that students have access to the high-quality education they deserve.


About the Ontario Student Voices

Ontario Student Voices is a non-profit provincial student advocacy group representing students across Ontario. Our mission is to be the voice for College and Polytechnic students across Ontario, bringing awareness to the issues that impact them. Through collaborative advocacy efforts, we work with various stakeholders to create a better Ontario for the next generation of students.


FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES:

Ajane Adams

Chair for the Ontario Student Voices


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