OCUFA: Fall 2011 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review for Ontario: No News is No News (24 November 2011)

OCUFA Briefing Summary; email attachment sent to Faculty Associations on 24 November 2011.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan offered no more insight into the government’s plans for post-secondary education than could be found in Budget 2011 or Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne. The commitment to 60,000 more student places by fall 2015 was repeated. Although the Throne Speech alluded to the tuition rebate promised during the election campaign, no mention was made in this Fall Economic Statement.

It is not clear where funding for post-secondary education is headed. No updated figures for specific program spending were offered for 2012-13 and 2013-14. Duncan did reiterate the government’s commitment to “protect health care and education as the most important public services.” He also signaled that, when he tables budget 2012, growth in overall program spending may be reduced from 1.4 to 1.0 per cent a year over the upcoming five years or more. What that might mean for annual increases in support for health care and education (expected to increase at three and one per cent respectively), and whether “education” includes post-secondary education, is not yet known.

In the meantime, if the Liberal government delivers on its promise to provide $309 million in additional operating funding to support college and university enrolment growth by 2013-14, per student funding may remain stable. But it will continue to drop in real terms. If funding increases after that are limited to one per cent or less, per student funding will drop even further. In the past, the shortfall has been made up through tuition increases. The current policy permits an average annual tuition increase of five per cent. It is set to be replaced or renewed next year – at the same time Ontario Budget 2012 will tell us the direction the Liberal government is going on operating funding for colleges and universities.

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