TORONTO — A blue-ribbon panel says Ontario should raise per-student funding for its colleges and universities, but should also lift the freeze on tuition.
The recommendations are included in a government-commissioned report on the financial stability of post-secondary education, released Wednesday.
It calls for a tuition hike of five per cent next year, and a minimum increase of two per cent annually thereafter.
Provincial funding would go up by 10 per cent next year, followed by hikes of at least two per cent a year.
"Before agreeing to any tuition increases...we need to ensure that colleges and universities are taking the necessary steps to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible," Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop said in a statement.
A 10 per cent tuition cut was introduced by the Progressive Conservative government in 2019 when it cancelled the previous Liberal government's free tuition program for lower-income students.
Fees have been frozen since then.
One of the outcomes is increasing reliance by many post-secondary institutions on enrolment by international students, whose tuition fees are higher.
Panel members acknowledged the risks associated with a strong dependence by some schools on international students, saying they are financially sustainable only because of foreign students.
With regard to Northern Ontario schools, they said there is a need to propose measures focused explicitly on the North where population growth is lower than the rest of the province.
One suggestion is to allow slightly larger enrolment reductions at northern schools before government funding is negatively affected.
Among other proposals, the special purpose grants for northern schools would be increased, in recognition of their higher operating costs.
Colleges Ontario responded to the report with a statement saying it needs to review the details and work with the government on actions, but that "improved investments in public colleges will be essential to producing a stronger workforce."
Dunlop said she looks forward to working with post-secondary institutions in the coming weeks to determine how to achieve shared objectives.