Ontario announces C$1.3 billion in funding for postsecondary education
The funding is intended to help stabilize Ontario universities and colleges amidst the ongoing tuition freeze.

On February 26, the Ontario government announced nearly C$1.3 billion in new funding to stabilize the province’s colleges and universities while also maintaining the tuition fee freeze for another three years.

Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities said in a press release, “It’s never been more important to keep costs down for students and parents.” When the tuition freeze was first implemented in 2019, Ontario had the highest university tuition rates in Canada. 

The funding will be allocated to different sectors. The new Postsecondary Education Sustainability Fund, which will begin this year, will receive C$903 million. This includes C$203 million that will be invested in top-ups for institutions requiring greater financial relief. 

A total of C$167.4 million will be invested in capital repairs and equipment. This year, C$100 million will support STEM program costs at publicly funded colleges and universities with student enrollments surpassing existing funding thresholds. 

Another C$65.4 million will be put towards research and innovation, and C$23 million will be used to enhance mental health support for students. The rest of the funding will be put towards other costs, such as grants and third-party reviews into how colleges and universities can save money in the long term.

This funding is intended to help students and parents afford postsecondary education while keeping colleges and universities financially stable enough to support student success and wellness. 

The Ontario government is also introducing the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, 2024. If passed, postsecondary institutions will be required to increase transparency when it comes to student costs. This would include ancillary fees and student costs including the purchasing of textbooks and learning materials.

The act would also require postsecondary institutions to implement policies that support mental health and wellness while combating racism, antisemitism, and islamophobia on campus.

The new funding is in response to a government-commissioned report which found that low provincial funding combined with the 2019 tuition freeze posed a significant threat to the financial sustainability of Ontario colleges and universities. 

The report also revealed that funding for publicly assisted colleges and universities in Ontario was at a lower level than in every other province. The Council of Ontario Universities has added that at least 10 universities in Ontario are struggling with operating deficits.

This effort by the provincial government has already been criticized by organizations that represent Ontario colleges and universities and the Opposition NDP, who say the new funding is still not enough to solve postsecondary institutions’ financial difficulties. 

Alex Usher, president of the Higher Education Strategy Associates, criticized the new funding as not being a “serious attempt to put Ontario’s colleges and universities on solid footing,” in a CBC article

On the other hand, Colleges Ontario, which represents Ontario’s 24 public colleges, said in a statement on February 26 that they are pleased the government is making an effort to support postsecondary institutions, but that further action is still expected and necessary for the sustainability of Ontario’s public colleges. 


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