university sector highlights — University Affairs

This crop of provincial budgets focus on increasing health-care seats and funding infrastructure projects at postsecondary institutions.

As provinces continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing health-care labor shortage, several targeted investments have been made to increase nursing and medical school seats at universities across the country. The provinces of Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario have each announced funding for health-care programs totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another major priority is postsecondary infrastructure and building renewal projects, with the most significant investments being made by the province of British Columbia to address student housing shortages.

After announcing that it would be cutting funding to postsecondary institutions in 2019, the government of Alberta has frozen operating grants, which has led some institutions to announce tuition increases for 2022-2023. However, the president of the University of Alberta, Bill Flanagan, said the provincial commitment to increasing enrollment in high-demand programs and other investments mark a “turning point” for postsecondary education in the province.

Here is a summary of what those working or studying at universities across the country should be aware of, as the provinces roll out their annual spending plans.

  • The province is allocating $2.6 billion toward advanced education and skills training and $1.2 billion in capital spending for postsecondary institutions – a 17.4 per cent increase in spending from the previous year.
  • The University of Victoria will receive $90 million for the expansion of its engineering and computer science building and construction of a new engineering laboratory building, which are expected to create 500 additional tech-related seats.
  • UVic has also received $27 million to expand its law building to include the National Center for Indigenous Laws and Indigenous Law Research Unit.
  • $18 million has been allocated for Simon Fraser University to build a new First Peoples Gathering House for ceremonies and learning events, as well as $19 million for Capilano University to build a Center for Childhood Studies.
  • The government included several follow-up investments for student housing projects after promising to increase the number of available spaces by 5,000 in 2018. These include $127 million for the UVic, $87 million for BCIT, and $55 million for SFU.
  • The budget states that the province is developing a workforce readiness plan to address challenges and climate adaptation, which will create one million jobs by 2031. It also includes $67 million for job training and skill development to fill those positions, including $25 million to increase training seats for health-care assistants and $8 million for students in early childhood education.
  • The province is expected to spend $5.4 billion on postsecondary education in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, up from $5.2 billion budgeted last year, and is projecting $5.5 billion in spending in 2023-24.
  • While total provincial grants to postsecondary institutions increased slightly (by $4 million, or 0.14 per cent) compared to last year, universities received expected cuts to operational funding first announced in the 2019-20 budget.
  • The University of Calgary needs to offset $20.7 million this fiscal year, representing a 5.2 per cent cut in operations funding; Mount Royal University has lost $1.7 million in funding or 1.9 per cent of its operating budget; and the University of Alberta was dealt $52 million in cuts – a 10.7 per reduction – bringing its total cuts over three years to $222 million.
  • The province will provide $171 million over three years to expand postsecondary enrollment by 7,000 spots in high-demand disciplines, including computer science, information technology, data modeling, finance and fintech, energy, health and aviation.
  • Over the next three years, the budget includes $15 million in grants and bursaries for low-income students in high-demand programs; $8 million to increase opportunities for reskilling and upskilling through microcredentials; $12 million to fund existing scholarships and $6 million for work-integrated learning placements.
  • An additional $30 million will be provided to increase apprenticeship opportunities, half of which will enable 300 students to acquire skills in emerging sectors. The other half is targeted for community agencies connecting students to in-demand jobs and those serving underemployed groups, including women.
  • The University of Calgary will receive $58.5 million over three years to expand its veterinary medicine school to address a critical shortage of large-animal veterinarians in rural areas.
  • Over the same period, nearly $50 million is allocated to building the U of A Hospital Brain Center’s Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit.
  • The budget notes that tuition fee revenue has increased by $149 million since the 2021-22 fiscal year, and is expected to increase further due to enrollment growth. The province included a recommendation from an expert panel that postsecondary institutions explore broader revenue streams to “reduce reliance on government,” including asking students to pay for a higher share of their education.
  • The budget provides $684.1 million in operating and capital grants to postsecondary institutions and a second $30 million investment for the postsecondary sector to support COVID-19 recovery, revenue generation, sector collaboration and initiatives related to the province’s economic growth plan.
  • The postsecondary sector will receive $30.1 million in 2022-23 for infrastructure projects, some of which will be allocated for upgrades to the University of Saskatchewan’s dental college.
  • The budget includes $4.9 million to add 150 seats in postsecondary nursing programs.
  • The province plans to continue its student retention program by providing up to $20,000 in tax credits for postsecondary graduates who remain in Saskatchewan.
  • The USask announced in late April that it would be increasing tuition fees by four per cent every year over the next three years.
  • The province committed $1.65 billion in funding for advanced education, skills, and immigration for 2022-23, up $74 million from 2021-22.
  • Postsecondary spending was essentially frozen from last year, which amounts to a four per cent cut to university operating grants, according to the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations. The association said in a press release that students and faculties have been left out in the cold and that there is “a dark storm on the horizon for [Manitoba] .”
  • Tuition fee revenue to the province is expected to rise by $35 million in 2022-23, following a 3.75 per cent tuition increase in 2021-22.
  • The province will invest $11 million this year to boost nursing enrollment in Manitoba’s postsecondary institutions. It also earmarked $16,000 for a grant assistance program to help veterinary clinics hire new students.
  • The government expects to spend $10.8 billion on postsecondary education in 2022-23, an $800 million increase from the previous year. This includes $1.3 billion in capital grants to colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes.
  • The budget allocates $142 million over three years to deliver clinical education for nursing-related programs and to increase medical school seats, as well as $62 million over three years to support human-resources graduates working in underserved communities.
  • $135 million will be spent in 2022-23 to help universities modernize classrooms, upgrade technology, and improve environmental sustainability through critical repairs.
  • $9 million is allocated specifically for Indigenous institutes to expand postsecondary program offerings, train Indigenous students, and support facility renewal.
  • $5 million is targeted for tuition assistance to support those on social assistance, newcomers, and gig workers to enroll in college, university, or vocational training programs.
  • The province has extended its tuition fee freeze for domestic students for the third consecutive year.
  • Ontario’s public universities will receive approximately 33 per cent of their operating funding from the provincial government, according to a press release from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.
  • The government expects to spend $2.8 billion over five years on education and higher education, $1.3 billion of will be used to help more people access postsecondary education and graduate from their postsecondary programs.
  • Spending on higher education will grow by 13.1 per cent in 2022-2023, with slight increases over the next two years.
  • $634.1 million over four years will be invested in increasing the number of higher education graduates through initiatives such as regional mobility programs and distance education.
  • $342 million over five years will be allocated for student financial assistance.
  • $278.1 million over four years will be invested in student support services, including targeted funding for Indigenous students, expanding mental health services at postsecondary institutions, and integrating trainees into the provincial health and social services network.
  • To attract and retain international students, the province will provide $80 million over four years to reduce tuition fees for college and university students registered in French-language programs.
  • The government will spend $45 million over five years to match donations to CEGEPs, which mirrors a program already in place for publicly funded universities.
  • $25 million will be given to support the renewal of the province’s strategy to prevent sexual violence at postsecondary institutions.
  • The province will spend close to $670 million on postsecondary institutions, which includes $275 million in operating grants to universities; nearly $24 million for research and innovation; and approximately $20 million to retain international students.
  • The province spent $142 million more on advanced education than it had projected for fiscal year 2021-22, after issuing one-time COVID-19 grants to students last year.
  • For the 2022-23 fiscal year, the province expects to spend $676 million on postsecondary education, with universities receiving a one per cent increase in their operating grants.
  • The budget allocates $3.2 million in 2022-23 to add 200 nursing seats at postsecondary institutions, including 28 seats at Dalhousie University and 26 seats at St. Francis Xavier University.
  • The government will invest an additional $1.8 million to support medical school and nursing seats previously created through public spending since 2019.
  • $1.3 million has been earmarked to support postsecondary students with accessibility needs.
  • The operating grant to the University of Prince Edward Island has remained essentially the same since last year, with a slight increase of 1.5 per cent.
  • In 2022-2023 the province will increase a non-repayable student grant known as the Island Advantage – George Coles Bursary by $400. The bursary is only offered to PEI students entering their first year of study at UPEI or three island colleges.
  • To encourage volunteerism among youth, the government is also offering bursaries of $750 to $1,000 to high school students who apply to their first year of postsecondary studies.
  • The budget allocated $3 million to increase nursing-program seats at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
  • Memorial will receive $14 million less this year via its provincial grant over 2021-22. The province announced in 2021 that it would cut Memorial’s budget by $68.4 million over five years.

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