Of Dollars and Deficits
Thursday, July 3, 200816 Comments
My first area of frustration is directed toward our provincial government, who have continuously cut grants to universities since our parents thought it was a good idea to vote in Mike Harris. Ontario universities are then put in a tricky situation – there are only a few sources of revenue generation, and if one of the biggest sources (government funding) starts getting cut, they have to exploit another source (often, this has come as tuition increases). Despite astronomical cuts, post-secondary education has never been an election issue, at least not one comparable to health care or the economy. Hopefully, an upcoming Provincial Day of Action against rising tuition fees will send some strong signals to our elected government—“accessible post-secondary education matters to us, your constituents. Make it matter to you, too.”
My second area of frustration, then, is directed at the University Administration. While compiling the Operating Budget for 2008-2009, the University of Guelph is assuming a 3.5% to 4% increase of provincial grants. Excuse me? Didn’t we start facing this deficit, because the government has been making extraordinary cuts to post-secondary funding? And, while I’m no bearer of a crystal ball that can see into the future, I’m confident to say that the future doesn’t look much brighter for funding.
My third area of frustration is an extension to this assumed increase in funding. When universities lose one source of funding, they exploit another—tuition. And this year, the provincial tuition framework is up for discussion. These talks will decide how much universities can increase tuition by over the next several years. The cynic in me is saying that, when government grants are not realized, the University will go to the provincial government and say, “Well, since you aren’t giving us funding, you have to give us a more generous tuition framework to work within, so we can fund ourselves.” And then we see tuition raises of 5% or higher.
Given that the government grant goals are “lofty and aggressive” (as said by Miles), I challenge the Board of Governors, Senate and Senior Administration that when these grants do not come through and are not realized, that this University does not exploit another source of revenue generation—that being tuition increases, especially since tuition framework is up for discussion soon. This connection must be realized by advocates of students and an accessible education, or this very fear might be realized.
This opinion piece is a response to an article recently published in The Ontarion. Article can be viewed here: The Ontarion