TORONTO — Ontario should end its tuition freeze immediately and allow for a five-per-cent bump next September, the province's colleges said Monday.
The post-secondary institutions are also calling for a 10-per-cent increase in operating grants and the lifting of a cap on "high-demand" programs to allow for more student enrolment.
"These investments in student success will help ensure Ontario’s future workforce has the expertise to succeed in a rapidly evolving labour market," said Marketa Evans, the president of Colleges Ontario, which represents the province's colleges.
Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government introduced a 10-per-cent tuition cut in 2019 – as it cancelled the former Liberal government's free tuition program for low- and middle-income students – and has frozen fees at that level since then.
The freeze led post-secondary institutions to increase their dependence on international student tuition, which is considerably higher than for domestic students.
Last week, a government-commissioned report completed by an independent panel recommended ending the tuition freeze and increasing per-student funding to Ontario's universities and colleges.
The Council of Ontario Universities has said those institutions receive the lowest amount of operating grant funding per full-time student of all the provinces. The level in Ontario is $8,647 compared to a Canadian average of $12,215 in 2020-21, the council said earlier this year.
Ontario Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop has not specified what the government will do, but said she has asked the institutions to go over their finances and become as efficient as possible.
"My ministry has already begun working with institutions on a financial accountability framework that will allow for early detection of financial challenges and require immediate action to correct bad practices in order for our post-secondary to be sustainable for the long term," she said at the legislature on Monday.
"Institutions need to take leadership and review their operations from top to bottom, from governance practices, program offerings, day-to-day operations and everything between."
The colleges said they are already operating efficiently.
"Colleges have been operating under tight fiscal constraints for decades and have found many ways to work together and find efficiencies," the colleges wrote in a statement.
"For example, we already have a single bargaining approach, a single application service, collaborative purchasing and collaborative curriculum development."
The colleges' call came days after a similar ask from the province's universities. The Council of Ontario Universities called for government action immediately.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2023.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press