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CSA Responds: Ontario's investment in Post-Secondary Sustainability, Tuition Freeze, Accountability and Supports Act

On February 26th, 2024, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities announced a $1.3 billion investment in post-secondary institutions. Dispersed among seven key areas of financial need, the investment includes $903 million to stabilize colleges and universities over three years, with an additional $203 million in top-up funds for institutions in need. This means Ontario’s publicly funded institutions will receive a share of $301 million per year, for the next three years. CSA is extremely pleased to see the province invest in our long under-funded post-secondary sector. Although these funds are an excellent step in the right direction, additional financial resources must be allocated to Ontario's institutions in order to create a sustainable funding model that does supports and uplifts students. 

As seen in Figure One, in the 2019/20 year, Ontario’s colleges received just 32.2% of their total funds from the province, and 54% from student fees, particularly international student tuition. Across the country, Ontario has the lowest per-student funding for college students, at just 44% of the national average. While the rest of Canada provides about $15,615 in funding per college student, Ontario provides just $6891.

However, this was not always the case. In the year 2008/09, for example, the province provided 54.4% of college funds, with student fees representing just 28.2% of total funds. As stated in our 2023/24 Pre-Budget Submission, “this funding discrepancy is the result of an ideological shift, which involved replacing public funds with the revenue from international student enrolment”. As a result, from 2008/09 to 2019/20, international students in Ontario grew from 7.1% of the total college student population, to 34.0% (Trends in Private and Public Funding in Canadian Colleges, StatsCan)

The lack of provincial funds across the sector has caused Ontario’s post-secondary institutions to become financially unsustainable, and functionally dependent on international student tuition. This has had many negative implications on both colleges and students, domestic and international alike. 

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ensuring the Financial Sustainability for Ontario’s Postsecondary Sector recommended the province provide roughly $2.5 billion in funding to institutions over three years. Given the recent federal cap on international students, this amount should likely be even higher. While a positive first step, the $1.3 billion investment brought forth by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities falls short of addressing the sector's financial unsustainability and insecurity, especially for colleges, who will be significantly impacted by the international student cap. Additional funds are crucial to protect the student experience, academic integrity and the learning environment, and essential student services.

CSA welcomes the additional extension of the domestic student tuition freeze. The current cost of living crisis has negatively impacted students across the province, and we are thrilled to see the government acknowledge the struggles facing domestic students. We appreciate the government’s nuanced approach to this topic, given that the Blue Ribbon Panel did recommend a domestic tuition unfreeze and increase. We believe the temporary extension of the freeze will provide both the province and colleges with time to alleviate some of the external financial pressures facing students. Note, the extension of the freeze should not be followed by a reduction in OSAP.

Finally, the province also introduced the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act, Bill 166. This Act makes three key amendments to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.


  1. Every college and university is required to have a student mental health policy that describes the programs, policies, services and supports available at the college or university in respect of student mental health. 

  2. Every college and university is required to have policies and rules to address and combat racism and hate, including but not limited to anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

  3. The Minister is authorized to issue directives in relation to the information to be provided about the costs associated with attendance at the college or university.

These proposed amendments are an excellent step in the right direction. Specifically, when money is tight, student services are often the first programs to be cut. Implementing a specific mental health policy better protects the longevity and security of programs and services for students, and ensures that both Colleges and Universities remain accountable to students the Ministry. CSA will continue to explore the concept of Mental Health Standards, through the Canada Standards Association and Higher Education Strategy Associates, as a way to further these goals on campuses. The following two amendments are additional steps in the right direction. CSA is eager to learn more about these amendments and how they will be developed with both students and colleges. 

Altogether, CSA has long advocated for increases to post-secondary operating grants. We are pleased to see the provincial government announce this $1.3 billion investment in Ontario’s post-secondary institutions, but we remain steadfast and hopeful that the province will allocate additional funds that align with the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel and the reality of the international student cap. Ontario’s students deserve to be a part of colleges that can afford to provide an: enriching learning environment, career-specific skills development, new technology, academic support services, health and mental health supports, community services, housing, student connections, and so much more.


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