Ford teases ‘really good’ announcement for Ontario colleges, universities

Click to play video: 'Ontario colleges say students are being hurt by federal study permit cap'
Ontario colleges say students are being hurt by federal study permit cap
RELATED: Ontario colleges are speaking out on the imposed cap on permits for international students, saying that students are caught in limbo. Colin D'Mello has the story. – Jan 25, 2024

Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet are doubling down on scathing criticism of the Trudeau government’s international student cap as they prepare to unveil new money for post-secondary education in Ontario.

Ford has teased a “really good” announcement to come from Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop.

The minister is scheduled to speak at Queen’s Park around 2 p.m. Monday.

A source previously told Global News the government was planning to roll out “financial support” for colleges and universities toward the end of February.

In January, the federal government announced it was limiting the number of international students who could come to the country, a cap that amounted to roughly 50 per cent in Ontario.

Since 2019, the province has frozen tuition for universities and colleges, with leaders in the sector saying they have had to rely on unregulated tuition fees from international students to plug the gap.

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Dunlop said on Thursday the cap had brought “chaos” to post-secondary education in the province. She said employers in the province need more graduates, including international students, to plug gaps in the labour force.

“The workers that we need in this province are absolutely incredible and we are disgusted with the federal government for dropping this on the provinces with no consultation,” Dunlop said.

On Friday, Ford continued the attacks.

“You can’t take a sledgehammer to the whole system (like) the federal government did (and) blindside everyone,” he said.

The premier said he touts colleges and universities as Ontario’s top feature when he goes abroad on trade and investment missions.

“Our number one selling feature (is) the colleges and universities and the students that are coming out of those colleges and universities,” Ford said.

Critics, however, have charged the Ford government with underfunding universities, failing to raise tuition fees and leaving the sector to struggle.

“Ford has been fully aware of how decades of chronic underfunding by Liberal and Conservative governments, and five years of Ford cuts, have pushed our postsecondary institutions to the brink,” Ontario NDP colleges and universities critic Peggy Sattler said.

“Instead of taking serious action, Ford has encouraged unrestrained international student recruitment, enabled bad actors, rewarded PC party donors and left everyone else out in the cold.”

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Colleges and universities have also called for more funding, though they have focused much of their wrath on the federal government. Post-secondary institutions in the province are feeling the pinch.

The Council of Ontario Universities said at least 10 universities are projecting operating deficits this year of a combined $175 million.

According to a blue-ribbon panel report that estimated the province needs to inject $2.5 billion into the sector, colleges have increasingly relied on international student admissions to stay financially viable and keep the lights on as domestic tuition has dried up.

In January, Steve Orsini, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, said the tuition fee freeze bought in by the Ford government was “undermining” student success.

While Orsini said universities have been “very responsible” in how many international students are being enrolled, he warned the province that a lack of funding could come with consequences.

“These financial pressures have led to cuts that are impacting student services and supports,” Orsini said.

Both Premier Ford and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy have ruled out tuition fee increases.

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