Ontario’s 24 colleges, including Collège Boréal in Sturgeon Falls, are seeking an urgent meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne to address the funding crisis that has colleges facing what could be a cumulative $1.9-billion shortfall by 2024-25. Canadore College President, George Burton says they’re doing everything they can to cope with funding shortfalls, but it can’t continue like this. Burton says the province has to find a solution to ensure students continue to have access to the high-quality programs that lead to good jobs and long-term success.
Since 2007-08, the provincial funding for colleges’ operating costs has decreased each year. Colleges have suffered an accumulated shortfall of about $900 million over the past 10 years. A new report by PwC Canada suggests if no actions are taken to change current trends of revenues and expenses, colleges could face an annual operating deficit that will exceed $400 million a year by 2025 and a cumulative shortfall of more than $1.9 billion by that time.
While colleges have worked to manage funding shortfalls through greater efficiencies, the sector is at its breaking point. The government’s recent announcement that tuition fees at Ontario’s colleges will remain among the lowest in Canada worsens the fiscal squeeze. College representatives will be meeting with Advanced Education and Skills Development Minister Deb Matthews in February.
The underfunding of college education is particularly puzzling at a time when the economy is being transformed by accelerating technological advancements. Without a change in direction, Ontario won’t have a highly skilled workforce and the economy will continue to sputter. Burton says the government must broaden its view and work with them to find a solution to this complex issue. He says Ontario must commit to the long-term sustainability of college education to produce the highly skilled workforce that is essential in this new economy.