Students disagree with Ford’s changes to funding model

Sam Odrowski

The Ford government recently announced it will be moving away from fixed funding amounts for post secondary institutions and shift to a performance-based funding model.

The $3 billion in funding that has been guaranteed to the province’s 45 publicly funded colleges and universities in the past will now be distributed based on 10 metrics that measure economic/community impact and student outcomes.

While advocates of the new funding model argue the change will help to make post-secondary institutions more accountable to taxpayers and increase student graduation rates, critics say the change will threaten academic quality for students and endanger smaller post-secondary institutions.

Around 300 of Ontario’s post-secondary students were surveyed by OneClass on the changes to the model and overall the results show it’s not favourable for current or incoming students.

“As university’s shift towards more programs that do produce desirable outcomes, I wanted to see what students thought,” said OneClass analyst Jerry Zheng.

“We discovered that on just about all these things that Doug Ford is trying to better in terms of student outcomes–students seem to disapprove,” he added.

The six student outcome based metrics that colleges and universities will depend on for funding include:

  • graduate earnings;
  • number and proportions of graduates in programs with experiential learning;
  • skills and competencies;
  • proportion of graduates employed full-time in a related or partially-related field;
  • proportion of students in identified area of strength; and
  • the overall graduation rate

When Ontario students were asked if they think the performance-based funding model would lead to better outcomes for them academically, or if it will lead to better outcomes in the job market for graduates, a majority said no.

“Of the respondents, nearly one-sixth of the students surveyed disapproved of everything proposed by Doug Ford.”

“I think that speaks to just how much Doug Ford is disliked,” he added.

Meanwhile, the shift itself towards performance-based funding will be slowly phased in.

For the 2020-21 school year, funding will be 24 percent tied to performance of post-secondary institutions, 35 percent for 2021-22, 45 percent for 2022-23, 55 percent for 2023-24, and 60 percent for 2024-25.

Zheng said it’s important to note that these metrics are going to be evaluated based on the school’s historical performance.

He added that Canadians only need to look to the south to see how performance-based funding has worked in the 28 states that have implemented it.

A study conducted on the performance-based funding in 20 states that use the model showed it didn’t improve degree completion or graduation rates.

“However, they did find that it provided a certain catalyst for positive institutional changes,” Zheng remarked.

“These schools developed greater strategies for intercepting students who are the most at risk of dropping out.”

“There was also a lot more support provided to students academically,” Zheng added.

“So whether or not this performance based funding model will work out–I think what we’ll start to see is school’s take a more student first approach as they try to secure some funding from the ford government.”