Ontario extends tuition freeze for colleges and universities for another year

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For the third year in a row, the province is freezing college and university tuition.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2022 (261 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For the third year in a row, the province is freezing college and university tuition.

“Our government recognizes that students and their families make huge sacrifices to attend college and university, so our government will continue to look for ways to reduce financial barriers for learners” especially given all of the “many challenges throughout the pandemic,” said Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop in a written statement.

In 2019-20, the Ford government announced a 10 per cent tuition reduction, followed by a two-year freeze on tuition fees, which it says has saved students about $660 each — or $450 million total annually compared to 2018-19 tuition rates, which at the time were the highest in the country.

R.J. Johnston - Toronto Star file photo The Ontario government announced a 10 per cent tuition reduction in 2019-20, followed by a two-year freeze on tuition fees.

Ontario now says its tuition rates are fourth highest for undergraduates and second highest for graduate students — running at more than $7,000 for an undergraduate arts program.

It is unclear if the government will provide any additional funding to universities and colleges to make up for the loss in revenue.

“When we asked for a tuition freeze, we also asked for an increase in operating grants for institutions so it doesn’t lead to an increase in tuition for international and out-of-province students,” said Eunice Oladejo, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance who is also a student council vice-president at Western University.

That’s typically where universities turn when they need to bring in more money, she added. Foreign students pay about $42,000 per year.

The alliance is also calling on the Ford government to boost student aid, including nonrepayable grants, with surveys showing almost two-thirds of post-secondary students have concerns about being able to afford their degrees.

In 2020-21, the province provided an additional $106.4 million for post-secondary institutions as they struggled during the pandemic, but NDP post-secondary critic Laura Mae Lindo said that’s a fraction of what they need.

“On the surface the government is hoping that people are going to be happy with another Band-Aid solution that students and also faculty have been fighting for, but what worries me is the real calls that we need the government to address are being ignored,” she said.

Liz Tuomi, manager of issues for Dunlop, said via email that the province provides colleges and universities with more than $5 billion a year, adding that “although post-secondary institutions have sole autonomy over matters involving international students, we expect … tuition rates for international students to be kept at reasonable levels.”

The Council of Ontario Universities said universities themselves spend more than $1.1 billion a year in scholarships and nonrepayable grants and bursaries, “yet, declining operating funding on a real per student basis and a cut and freeze to tuition makes it more difficult for universities to provide the supports students need.”

President and CEO Steve Orsini called for a boost in funding to expand enrolment by 53,500 new spaces, particularly in health care, science and tech programs where demand is highest.

For Colleges Ontario President Linda Franklin — who noted college tuition is already among the lowest in the country — “we expected this tuition freeze as something to help students during these uniquely challenging times.”

However, she added, “over the longer term, colleges and the government will need to find solutions to the sector’s long-term fiscal challenges.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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