TORONTO – Future funding for post-secondary institutions in Ontario will depend on metrics such as graduates’ earnings and employment rates.
The Progressive Conservative government announced in its recent budget that it will start tying more funding for the province’s colleges and universities to performance outcomes.
Only a small proportion of funding has been linked to institutional performance in recent years – 1.4 per cent for universities and 1.2 per cent for colleges – but that will go up to 60 per cent in the next five years.
On budget day, the government could not specify what criteria would be used to evaluate performance, but Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrilee Fullerton listed some Thursday in the legislature.
“These metrics will encourage universities and colleges to take active steps to improve the outcomes they deliver for our students,” she said. “Importantly, this is not about competition between universities and colleges, it is about institutions improving themselves based on their historical performance to deliver better results for their students.”
Those measures will include graduation rate, graduate employment, graduate earnings, experiential learning, skills and competencies, research funding and capacity, and community impact.
Fullerton later said that the institutions will be allowed to weight the metrics.
“The funding that’s going to the institutions needs to be spent effectively and efficiently and this is working towards that,” she said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government is going in the opposite direction to what’s needed.
“Other provinces are investing in education,” she said. “This government is taking money away.”
Spending on post-secondary education and training is projected to decrease from $12.1 billion in 2018-19 to $11.7 billion at the end of the Tories’ four-year term, for an average drop of one per cent annually.
The government announced earlier this year it was scrapping free tuition for low-income students and replacing it with a mix of grants and loans, as well as cutting tuition for all students by 10 per cent.
Colleges and universities are expected to absorb the loss of revenue from the tuition cut.
Student fees for campus organizations such as clubs and newspapers have also been made optional, drawing backlash from critics who said it will undermine accountability within post-secondary institutions and jeopardize important student supports.
The government has also announced a new policy on free speech in colleges and universities, and said compliance with the policy could affect funding.