Volume 96, Issue 2

Thursday, May 30, 2002
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Look up, way up

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2002-2003

Look up, way up

When it comes to funding, the Ontario government seems content to leave Ontario's northern universities out in the cold.

According to policy guidelines, government funding is supposed to match the provincial percentage of students attending a given university. According to a comparative study released by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, northern universities garner five per cent of provincial student enrollment, but they receive approximately two per cent of the funding doled out to universities in the form of bursaries, endowments, research funding and private donations.

Northern institutions, younger and steeped in less tradition than their southern brethren, argue that they also suffer a disadvantage when it comes to private funding. They do not have the same corporate infrastructure and alumni connections of universities such as Western, Queen's University and the University of Toronto. Simply put, they believe they are not getting their fair share of the provincial pie and suffer from a lack of alternatives.

Theoretically, investing in northern universities does not give the province the same bang for its buck that it receives from funding its southern cousins. Universities in southern Ontario are entrenched in a geographic area with a rich history of research, corporate expansion and urbanization.

Admittedly, the cost of living is cheaper in northern cities, as are the operating costs for the universities in northern Ontario. There is certainly no comparison between the cost of a plot of land in Toronto and Thunder Bay.

Funding limitations are by no means limited to northern universities. Every university in this province can legitimately make the argument that they do not receive the per capita funding required to ensure reasonable tuition levels and adequate funding per student

However, is any monetary rationale good enough for a governmental slight of northern institutions – even if that slight is relatively minimal?

Because they are less established and geographically isolated, northern universities do not benefit from lucrative alumni donations and are less likely to receive support from the private sector. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure the success of the province's northern universities. They offer many viable, unique programs for Ontario students and remain a key asset for northern communities.

Unfortunately, there is only so much provincial funding to go around. Any measures taken to level the playing field for northern institutions will inevitably mean a drain upon the resources of an institution such as Western. However, for the future of post-secondary education in the province, we may all be better served to keep a close eye on the potential funding crisis of our northern cousins.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002