The House of Commons Finance Committee is recommending the federal government create a separate funding envelope for post-secondary education.
The recommendation comes in response to concerns that CAUT and other groups raised during the committee's pre-budget hearings about the lack of accountability and transparency in the way Ottawa provides funding to the provinces in support of universities and colleges.
Currently, the federal government provides funding to the provinces for post-secondary education through the Canada Social Transfer (CST), which is a block fund with no requirement that any portion of the fund be allocated to education and with no accountability for how the funds are spent.
"The creation of a separate fund for post-secondary education is an important first step in the right direction," said James Turk, executive director of CAUT. "It would give Canadians a clearer sense of the federal government's contribution and would ensure that money designated to the provinces be clearly mandated for post-secondary education."
In its pre-budget submission to the committee in November CAUT called on the federal government to ensure the creation of a national post-secondary education fund, governed by legislation modelled on the Canada Health Act, and setting out guidelines on how government funding could be used by provincial post-secondary education programs.
"Unlike the transfers for health care, the bad news is that the CST doesn't have specific conditions attached to its use," Turk said. "There is virtually no requirement about how funds are to be spent, if spent at all, and no provincial accountability. That's why it's important not just to create a separate post-secondary education fund, but also to establish through legislation how the funds can be spent."
Traditionally, recommendations of the finance committee have a strong influence on the federal government's budget priorities.
"We're hopeful the government will take up this recommendation in the upcoming budget," Turk said.