Ontario’s Universities face mounting COVID-19 impacts
February 26, 2021

Friday Feb. 26, 2021 – “As all sectors across the province feel the impacts of the pandemic, Ontario’s universities are no exception. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s universities have incurred more than $500 million in combined net costs and lost revenue and the sector is seeking sector-wide cost recovery support from the provincial government to protect services and to foster innovation and economic growth 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Ontario’s universities have incurred significant costs in order to help ensure students continue to receive access to the high quality programs and services they need. Universities swiftly pivoted towards technology-enhanced course delivery models and virtual academic, career counselling and mental health supports. They have also implemented new, necessary health and safety measures such as converting classrooms and providing PPE; and incurred the costs of deep cleaning and much more. 

Overall, COVID-19 has impacted universities by more than a $1 billion in total costs and lost revenue. To help offset these impacts, universities have been able to find onetime, inyear savings of more than half that amountresulting in a net impact of more than $500 million in 2020-21. As the pandemic continues, these impacts will have broad and increasingly complex financial repercussions that will have long-term implications for the sector, our students, local employment, the financial health of Ontario’s communities and universities’ ability to help the province recover.   

Recognizing the financial stress and challenges many students and their families are facing during this difficult time, universities quickly distributed more than $14 million in emergency relief funds – in addition to the $1 billion provided to students in financial assistance, scholarships and bursaries – to help ensure every qualified student can continue to attend an Ontario university. 

Universities play a vital role in shaping Ontario’s future and are inextricably linked to their communities. Ensuring that Ontario’s postsecondary sector is able to support the fight against COVID-19; provide essential online and mental health services to students; develop a highly skilled and adaptable workforce; strengthen industries, businesses and communities; drive ground-breaking innovation and help restore Ontario’s competitive economy is more important than ever. 

Ontario’s universities have been fully committed to working with its partners to fight the pandemic. Institutions donated PPE, opened up their student residences to health-care workers, helped business convert operations, adjusted programming to continue to train health-care professionals and are investing time and resources in the development of vaccines and laboratory testing.  

As families, workers and businesses across the province continue to face the challenges of the pandemic, Ontario’s universities have a critical role to play to help our province both now and in the next chapter in the fight against COVID-19. Universities have developed a 5-point plan that outlines how they will continue to partner to empower and support students and communities; connect people and ideas; drive the innovation that helps create jobs and bring made-in-Ontario solutions to market.  

Maintaining a healthy, financially sustainable university system that is vital to Ontario’s economic and social well-being, requires critical government investments to ensure that institutions are supported and are able to recover from these financial challenges. 

Ontario’s universities look forward to continuing to partner with government and are seeking sector-wide COVID-19 support to protect services and foster innovation and economic growth in communities throughout the province.”   

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