To our valued U of G community,
As you all know, the University of Guelph plays an important role in educating the next generation of talent, driving innovation, and fostering economic growth. Whether you are a student, faculty member, or employee – you are an important part of our incredible community. Your efforts, talents, and hard work are the reason we are known for our excellence as an academic institution.
Our University enables our region to thrive by integrating our people and facilities into the fabric of our local community. In Guelph alone, U of G has a $2.1 billion annual impact on the local economy. We are proud to offer significant community programming and to prioritize partnerships with local businesses and industries to support growth and address talent needs.
More broadly, U of G is among Canada’s top comprehensive, research-intensive universities (Infosource, 2022). We are ranked first in Canada and in the top ten globally for veterinary sciences (Quacquarelli Symonds, 2023). Most recently, we also ranked among the top 150 universities in the world for Life Sciences (Times Higher Education, 2023).
The great work done by you and your colleagues across our institution makes this possible.
Our University excels at meeting the needs of Ontario’s students as well as our industry partners. Ninety per cent of our student population is from within the province. Notably, we provide an important educational pathway for rural communities – serving twice as many students compared to other post-secondary institutions. Our graduates are prepared for the workforce and the changing needs of Ontario’s economy, leaving U of G with a 97 per cent employment rate.
Facing financial headwinds
Despite our history of academic and research excellence along with our continuous growth, our operating budget is in its fourth consecutive year of deficit. We are not alone. Several Ontario post-secondary institutions face mounting financial pressures. As outlined in my recent co-authored op-ed, this situation is the culmination of several factors that are years in the making.
Earlier this month, the province’s blue-ribbon panel on post-secondary education released its report on ensuring financial sustainability for the post-secondary education sector.
Notably, operating grants from the provincial government have been frozen since 2006. As estimated by the Council of Ontario Universities, these grants have declined by 31 per cent in real value– representing $60 million per year to our University alone, when adjusted for inflation. Additionally, universities have been restricted from enrolment growth since 2016. This has resulted in approximately 1,000 provincially ‘unfunded’ students at U of G, representing $7.5 million in unrealized operating funding. In 2019, the provincial government also froze tuition fees after reducing them by 10 per cent. This cut, which also saw a reduction in provincial funding for student assistance, represented a 5 per cent reduction in our operating budget and has resulted in over $125 million in lost tuition revenue since it was implemented.
At the same time, our University’s operating costs have grown significantly. Rising expenses are the result of many factors outside of the University’s control, including:
- the global pandemic,
- persistent inflation,
- the need for physical and digital infrastructure upgrades and maintenance,
- and increasingly complex student needs, including ensuring additional mental health and wellness supports.
To weather this storm, we have undertaken several short-term measures. These include a 5.5 per cent reduction to our base operating budget, reducing services and leveraging our reserves — none of which are long-term sustainable practices.
The pressures we are facing due to government policy have directly informed our decision to launch a Strategic Transformation. Our transformation is designed to modernize our University while also identifying opportunities for revenue generation. While we will realize financial savings by embracing new ways of working and digital-first approaches, these changes alone are not sufficient to carry us into a financially sustainable future. We need government to take action.
The answer is not to have our students carry this financial burden alone. Our University is a proud champion of the Student Access Guarantee – doing everything in our power to ensure students who are eligible to study at U of G have access to the financial means necessary to do so. This includes:
- offering $45.5 million (in 2022-2023) in scholarships and bursaries,
- advocating for and helping to provide access to financial aid (such as OSAP),
- and leveraging the Tuition Set Aside (TSA) program – which provides needs‐based financial assistance to students.
Over the last several years, we have engaged with government to ensure they understand the unique value of U of G, and our contributions to communities, here and abroad. While we have had some successes, these are not enough to stabilize our consecutive operating budget deficits. We therefore join sector colleagues in urging the provincial government to act quickly on the recommendations in the blue-ribbon panel report to address the growing financial crisis at Ontario universities.
For more than 150 years, U of G has experienced a vast amount of success in addition to challenges along the way and our current situation is no different. What has got us through these times is you – our faculty, staff and students. You have remained steadfast in preserving the genius that resides within our University and your unwavering commitment to improving life.
Thank you for being a part of our community,
Dr. Charlotte A.B. Yates
President & Vice-Chancellor