Queen's Park
The Provincial Government released the 2019 budget, outlining changes to funding and tuition on April 11. Photo: CC, David Wheelan.
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How the 2019 budget will impact post-secondary institutions

The provincial government released the 2019 budget laying out Ford’s full spending plan on April 11, including significant changes to how post-secondary institutions are funded and affirming previously announced tuition cuts, changes to OSAP and the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

Under the new budget, the government is also implementing a panel of experts to create an intellectual property framework for the province, related to the post-secondary education sector.

Performance based funding

Previously a minuscule share of the close to $5-billion of post-secondary funding — 1.4 per cent for universities and 1.2 per cent for colleges — was tied to performance, measured by graduation rates and employment after graduation.

The current operating agreement that universities have with the province ends in March of 2020, at which point the government plans to tie 25 per cent of post-secondary operating funding to performance for the first year, increasing the rate by 10 per cent annually for three years after that, and capping it at an increase of five per cent until it reaches 60 per cent in the 2024-25 academic year.

The budget also was states that the government will reduce the number of performance metrics to evaluate post-secondary institutions, from 38 and 28 for colleges and universities respectively, to 10 each. It is not yet clear what those metrics will be.

However, according to the budget, “institutions will have the flexibility to weigh the metrics that best reflect their differentiated strategic goals and will be measured against their own targets based on historical performance.”

The change has been met with criticism from the Canadian Federation of Students, whose chairperson Nour Alideeb stated in a press release:“this new funding model throws caution to the wind with the future of our post-secondary education system.”

“Forcing colleges and universities to compete for the majority of their funding poses a huge risk to many post-secondary institutions, particularly in remote and northern communities, as well as smaller campuses, who will be at a huge disadvantage,” she said.

OSAP and tuition cuts

The budget also confirmed the Progressive Conservatives’ previously announced changes to come into effect for the 2019-20 academic year.

This includes a 10 per cent domestic tuition cut carrying over into the following year, and the implementation of the SCI, which would allow students to opt-out of paying for services offered by the university that are deemed “non-essential” by the government.

The budget also cemented changes to OSAP, most notably the slashing of the free tuition grant introduced by the Ontario Liberals.

“The government is taking immediate action to restore financial sustainability to OSAP and to focus student assistance on those who need it the most,” the budget reads.

“Starting in the 2019–20 school year, the government will ensure 82 per cent of grants will go to students with a family income of less than $50,000, up from 76 per cent under the previous government.”

Promoting faculty turnover

The budget states that the average retirement age for faculty is increasing, leading to a lower turnover rate, which in turn, the government says reduces diversity in post-secondary teaching.

The budget further states that “this has cost implications, as these employees tend to be paid the highest salaries and benefits and, in some cases, are drawing salary and pension payments at the same time.”

They propose to make changes to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act, in order to reduce costs to “create a more sustainable post-secondary sector.”