According to an internal government document, the federal government is spending about $1.7 billion less on transfer payments for post-secondary education today that it did a decade ago.
Based on provincial spending patterns, Ottawa estimates the provinces are spending $4.5 billion of the Canada Social Transfer for core funding for universities and colleges this year, according to a briefing note to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development obtained under access to information legislation.
This is a reduction from the $6.18 billion spent a decade ago, before the Liberal Government eliminated Established Program Financing and replaced it with the more generic and less well-funded Canada Health and Social Transfer.
"When one considers that enrollment has increased substantially since 1994-1995 and that inflation has jumped more than 20 per cent, the real cut on a per-student, constant-dollar basis is much greater than the government indicates," said James Turk, CAUT's executive director. "We see the consequences every day as libraries have to cut back on their acquisitions and services, course offerings are reduced, class sizes grow and there are fewer faculty despite the growth in student numbers."
Although Ottawa has introduced a number of ancillary funding programs, such as the Canada Millennium Scholarship Fund and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Turk says these have not compensated for the cuts in funds for core operating expenses.
"But we are delighted that the recent federal Liberal convention passed a motion calling for the creation of a dedicated provincial transfer for post-secondary education," Turk said. "This is something CAUT has been advocating for several years and would add badly needed transparency and accountability."