When you look at the numbers, they indicate that tuition in Ontario is changing: not just rising, but shifting in perception and purpose. We have been compiling data from annual financial reports for a few years now and put together the following chart. For OUSA followers, this information is nothing new: students have been contributing more to university operating budgets than the provincial government since 2011. By our calculations, the most recent financial reports show tuition alone made up 45 percent of universities’ revenues in 2014—51 percent when fees are included. [i] Compared to the provincial government’s 43 percent contribution, students are paying for a much greater share of universities’ operating budgets.[ii] To put this a little differently: any growth in per student funding since the late nineties has been driven by students’ own contributions to their education.
Something that we only touch upon in the policy paper is this trend towards a privately funded/publicly subsidized higher education system. This trend stands in the way of principled stances on the value of post-secondary education. There is a danger here that these steps towards disproportionately private funding will continue without thoughtful discussion. As the public contributes less, can we assume they value the system less? If the system is privately funded, does that guarantee comparable private returns?
Another danger is in increasing expectations that all students should make massive contributions to their higher education experiences. This then puts us in a situation where only certain students have the means to attend PSE without incurring massive debt. It’s always worth repeating: higher education has the potential to grant social and economic mobility to the most disadvantaged members of our society. While we often point out that a university education can present graduates with the greatest employment and earning opportunities, we sometimes overlook the widespread increases in economic and civic participation that these opportunities fuel. The pursuance of a post-secondary education is not merely a personal choice, which yields personal returns—the benefit to our public sphere is a consideration that the government must always keep in mind.
So it is while noting these historical funding changes—influenced by a patchwork of regulations and reactive decision-making—and the principled implications therein that I would like to present this year’s Tuition Policy Paper on behalf of our student authors. As tuition continues to increase, the affordability, accessibility, and accountability of a university education is put at risk. As the chief tenets of our organization, these are characteristics we feel especially obligated to protect. This year’s tuition policy looks at ways to maintain these beliefs as well as address students’ priorities for the present and future of tuition at Ontario universities. We take a look at:
- System regulation,
- Student debt,
- Transparency and accountability,
- Educational costs,
- Payment processes, and
- The future of tuition.
To read the Tuition Policy brief, click here.
To read the Tuition Policy in full, click here.
[i] Based on comparisons of data from Snowdon & Associates, Revisiting University and College Revenue Data (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, 2009); Council of Ontario Universities, “Common University Data Ontario,” 2014, http://www.cou.on.ca/statistics/cudo.aspx; and, Council of Financial Officers, “Financial Reports and Highlights,” 2014, http://cou.on.ca/facts-figures/cofo-uo/financial-reports/financial-reports-and-highlights.