The Time to Invest is Now: Why Investing in Universities Means Investing in Ontario’s Students

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The Time to Invest is Now: Why Investing in Universities Means Investing in Ontario’s Students

A joint statement by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and Ontario’s universities.

October 11, 2023 – “It is a critical moment for higher education in Ontario. As the Blue-Ribbon Panel concludes its report to the government on the adequacy and stability of postsecondary funding, now is the time for government investment – because an investment in universities means an investment in our students and an investment in the province’s future.

The complex needs of postsecondary students increases with each passing year. Yet, real per student operating grants provided by the province have declined by 31% since 2006-07. This funding currently represents about 30% of total university operating revenue, with the remaining made up of other revenue sources including student fees. More can be done to ensure students have more of the supports they need. It is imperative that the provincial government ensure institutions are well-funded and properly equipped to graduate the next generation of leaders.

For years, universities have seen provincial funding sources decline and a cut and freeze to tuition. In understanding the financial challenges facing universities, the government has taken important initial steps by appointing a Blue-Ribbon Panel to make recommendations on the financial sustainability of the sector.

The government has the opportunity to act now. By investing in universities, we can enhance and enrich the Ontario student experience. It’s a sound investment.

  • It means more access to in-demand mental health and well-being resources for students
  • It means more career counselling services that help students enter the workforce job-ready
  • It means more leading-edge classrooms and research facilities that are set up to ensure students graduate with skills that will help them get jobs
  • It means ensuring capital infrastructure is retrofitted and structurally sound for student health and safety
  • It means continuing to lead the postsecondary sector in high graduation and employment rates for students
  • It means continuing to ensure those who need it most still have access to scholarship, bursaries, grants and other forms of financial aid

Ontario’s universities are steadfast in ensuring that students are properly supported. They currently provide nearly $1.3 billion in financial support for students. Universities also spend more than $1.4 billion on student services, including mental health and housing – that’s a 22 per cent increase over the last five years.

The quality of the student experience – which includes academic programming, work-integrated learning, extracurricular activities, facilities, and social and health supports – is what sets universities apart as they draw in students.

But, at a time when universities are experiencing growing financial pressures, how do we ensure that the financial resources available to Ontario’s universities are commensurate with the evolving needs of students?

The answer is increased public investment in higher education. That is why, as the Blue-Ribbon Panel concludes its work, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and Council of Ontario Universities are urgently calling for additional financial supports for universities so that they have the funding needed to protect the quality programming and wraparound supports that students need to be job-ready and resilient.

Recognizing that Ontario ranks 10th out of 10 provinces in the support it provides to our students and our universities, this is Ontario’s moment to turn the tide. Through increased investment we can ensure Ontario’s students can have the very best experience and supports.

The time to invest in our future is now.”

– Vivian Chiem, President, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance

– Steve Orsini, President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities

Tags: OUSA