Private cash curbs HE access

June 27, 2003

Canadian universities have become increasingly reliant on private sources of revenue as public-funding cutbacks hit core financing, according to government figures.

From 1986 to 2001, state funding for university operating revenues shrank by 20 per cent. Institutions sought to make up the shortfall by relying more on money from students, benefactors and industrial partners.

The country’s national agency Statistics Canada found that the sector increased privately derived revenues by 167 per cent in that period, from 19 per cent to 39 per cent by the first half of 2001.

Private funding seems to have contributed to a 28 per cent increase in operating revenues, triggering a new round of spending. This rose by an average 6.4 per cent in the five years up to 2002, compared with the 0.2 per cent decline in the early to mid-1990s.

Most new private money came from student fees, which grew 135 per cent in the 1990s. At the start of the 15-year period of the Statistics Canada study, student fees accounted for only 16 per cent of university operating revenue, rising to 34 per cent at the end.

The universities attempted to give back some of the money to students by increasing scholarships and bursaries 393 per cent.

A study of 18 to 20-year-olds suggests the growth in private money, namely, the rise in tuition fees, has exacted a cost in the area of accessibility.

When extrapolated, the study found that almost 100,000 high-school graduates were unable to enter post-secondary education due to costs.


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