A new plan to make post-secondary education more affordable could spell trouble for Ontario colleges.
The Ontario government has unveiled a new framework that will see the cap on tuition increases lowered from five per cent to three per cent annually for each of the next four years.
Brad Duguid, the minister of training, colleges and universities, said this is good news for students, as they can expect to save an average of $300 per year under the new framework.
Duguid added that while the proposed cap will mean savings for students, it will amount to added costs for colleges.
“We have to be very straight up and honest about this: this decision will take revenue, future revenue, from universities and colleges,” Duguid said.
These changes are not expected to be problematic at Humber.
Rick Embree, associate vice president of planning and development at Humber, said Humber is relatively safe because strong budget surpluses and high student populations have meant they don’t typically budget for high tuition increases at all, meaning there will be little lost revenue.
The same cannot be said for other colleges.
“Smaller and medium-sized colleges could have a hard time because they don’t have the scale,” Embree said.
Orville Getz, president of Humber College’s faculty union, said these changes, though relatively small on a per-student level, can really add up and become major issues for colleges with small budgets or stagnant or declining enrollment numbers.
“To go from five per cent to three per cent is really going to affect a lot of the small colleges, almost to the point where they could have to close their doors,” he said.
Getz said he doesn’t expect the government to allow any such closures, but he worries this new framework could exacerbate some of the issues already faced by smaller colleges, related to funding, enrollment and space.
Getz said it is becoming increasingly difficult for small colleges to compete with larger institutions, such as those in and around the GTA, and that if small colleges are to survive, new models for funding and supporting colleges are needed, as well as for increased restrictions to be put in place regarding admissions.
“How do you persuade students to go to Thunder Bay or Timmins?” Getz said.
“You can’t do it. They’re not going to go all the way there, unless they can’t get in anywhere else, and right now, people are still getting in [to the larger colleges].”