OUSA & COU's Joint Open Letter to Premier Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy

Dear Premier Ford and Minister Bethlenfalvy,

Ontario’s students and universities have come together to urgently call for investment in universities in Budget 2024 – an investment in our province’s students, communities and future.

Last month’s announcement of $903 million over three years to Ontario’s postsecondary institutions was an important first step in addressing the immediate challenges of the sector.


We look forward to continued discussions on how we can work together to find a longer-term solution that supports a financially sustainable sector – one that has the resources to fully support its students, contribute to local economies and create a competitive provincial economy.

It is why Budget 2024 must provide the additional multi-year base funding that was recommended by the Blue-Ribbon Panel.

The Panel was clear: the sector's financial sustainability is at serious risk. $2.5 billion is needed to rectify the funding shortfalls of the past several decades, including $1.9 billion in base revenue for universities.       

As Ontario struggles to boost productivity and continues to face growing global competition, the impact of universities – through highly skilled talent, strong innovation hubs and community economic development – will be needed more than ever to help drive economic growth and community resilience.    

Post-secondary institutions deserve investment that is reflective of the societal contributions they provide. Yet, Ontario has the lowest per-student funding in the country. Continuing this trend of low investment compared to other jurisdictions only threatens the growth of the sector.

The impact of university students will continue to be vital as they graduate ready to work and build a better future for generations to come. Students are our future researchers, analysts, healthcare professionals, engineers, therapists, musicians and so much more. University is the place where students grow into themselves, learn skills and develop interests that serve our society. It is where they have access to mentors, services and programming that help shape their experience in-study and benefit their post-graduation outcomes.    

But the programs and supports that these students deserve and rely on are at risk.

By not investing more in higher education at this critical moment, Ontario risks limiting the potential of these students – the future leaders, innovators and contributors to our society.

For years now, the university sector has faced mounting financial pressures that have created an increasingly untenable situation, with at least 10 universities projecting operating deficits of more than $175 million this year, growing to more than $273 million next year. The recent federal decision to cap international undergraduate study permits is only exacerbating the financial challenges universities face. Not providing universities with a fair allocation for these permits could further destabilize the health of the sector.

Without more investment, more universities will project deficits that will impact student services and the supports in place to help address the ever-growing complexity of student needs, as well as local economies.

Our universities are at a breaking point. The status quo cannot continue. Without more government investment, the world-class publicly assisted higher education sector that elicits pride in Ontarians, and the student services and experiences our universities provide will be compromised, limiting the boundless potential of Ontario’s students.

For our students and communities across Ontario, we call on the Ontario 2024 Budget to provide the additional base funding that was recommended by the Panel.

The time to act is now. Ontario’s students and universities cannot afford to wait.

An investment in Ontario’s universities is an investment in Ontario’s students and Ontario’s future.



Vivian Chiem, President, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance

Steve Orsini, President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities