posted on May 11: President George welcomes new university funding pledge


The Ontario government's commitment to new funding for universities is welcome news for McMaster, President Peter George says.

“The three-year commitment to increased operating grants will allow us to better prepare for the fiscal challenges that we will face over the next few years,” George said.

“It also provides assurance to students and parents that university places will be available at a time when the double cohort and other demographic factors mean substantially higher demands for access to university.”

George was commenting on the Ontario budget released yesterday in the legislature. The government promised to “increase operating grants to colleges and universities by an estimated $293 million by 2003-04, directly proportional to the projected enrolment growth.”

McMaster anticipates receiving about a 1.9 per cent increase in the operating money it receives from the government this year based on the budget announcement.

The increase is devised to help universities cope with the record number of students, known as the double cohort, who will arrive on campuses in the fall of 2003.

However, despite the new funding, George remains concerned that a key issue — the lack of government funding for some student places — was not dealt with in the budget.

“Because McMaster has tried to maintain accessibility, the University currently has more than 1,000 students for whom we receive no provincial funding. The only money we receive for these students is from their tuition which covers only a small portion of the expense the University incurs. This is our highest priority with the province and we look forward to working with the minister to seeing it addressed successfully.”

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU), representing the province's 17 universities, applauded the funding pledge.

The multi-year commitment to full funding for increased enrolment will help universities “plan for the longer term, hire faculty and develop strategic plans that would otherwise be beyond the scope of single-year budget planning,” said Paul Davenport, COU chair.

McMaster political science professor Henry Jacek, respresenting Ontario faculty associations, denounced the spending as inadequate.

“The funding levels announced for Ontario's universities and colleges will not meet the needs of Ontarians interested in going to university or college,” said Jacek, president of the
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

The budget also calls for:

  • $100 million cash infusion to universities and colleges to deal specifically with maintenance costs
  • the province to invest $60 million to start up a new university known as the Ontario Institute of Technology and to be located on the campus of Durham College
  • $12 million to be spent over three years to help foreign-trained professionals, including engineering technicians, nurses, other health care workers and teachers move into the workforce more quickly
  • the awarding of two Premier's Platinum Awards for research excellence each year to help universities attract and keep world-class senior researchers.

The Ontario government also promised to introduce a new Public Sector Accountability Act that would require all public sector institutions, like universities, that receive tax dollars to balance their budgets each year. The institutions would also have to issue plans outlining their objectives and track their progress against the plans. As well they would have to identify areas where they excel, where improvement is needed and report on efforts to “find ongoing efficiencies.”

More budget information will emerge in the coming days and the Daily News will report on what the details mean to McMaster.