Parties pledge 60,000 new spaces, but will they fund them?

Parties pledge 60,000 new spaces, but will they fund them?
During the current Ontario election campaign, both the Liberal and the Progressive Conservatives have promised to create 60,000 new spaces for Ontario college and university students by fall 2015. That’s a 10 per cent increase in students over the 2010 enrolment.The growth in student population is slower than in the recent past, but accommodating 60,000 new students will require more than bricks-and-mortar and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Future operating funding must also take into account the increasing proportion of students in graduate programs. Inflation has to be factored in, too. To meet these pressures alone, provincial operating grants to colleges and universities would need to be $1-billion-plus more for the 2015-16 school year than it’s been for 2010-11. And to close the funding gap between Ontario and the rest of Canada would require more.

To meet the needs of the increased numbers of students, universities need to hire more faculty. The double-cohort can no longer be used as an excuse as it took place eight years ago. But Ontario’s student-faculty ratio remains the worst in Canada. To replace retiring professors and to return to the pre-double-cohort ratio means hiring 1,200 full-time facultyevery year over the next four years.

Provincially funded students*
Graduate Under-graduate College Total
2010-11 39,241 351,262 215,130 605,634
2015-16 45,241 385,262 235,130 665,634
Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities
Operating Allocations ($ millions)
2010-11 $713 $2,614 $1,263 $4,590

* Assumes typical a two-thirds to one-third university-to-college enrolment ratio and two  per cent annual inflation
Sources: Universities’ enrolment and operating allocations – Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; Colleges’ enrolment and operating allocations – Colleges Ontario 
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