Nine provinces released their budgets in the lead up to April and the start of a new fiscal year. While they have all shifted their gaze beyond pandemic spending, a nationwide labour shortage in health care continues to impact how funding for postsecondary institutions has been allocated this year. Five provinces have increased funding to expand the number of seats in medical and nursing programs, while some governments – like Nova Scotia’s – are offering incentives to retain health care students in the province after they graduate.
Here’s a summary of what the university community should know as provinces roll out their spending plans this year.
Alberta’s United Conservative Party government tabled its budget on Feb. 28. It allocates $5.6 billion for postsecondary education, an increase of $183 million from what the province had forecasted. It projects a further increase of two per cent each year up to a total of $5.9 billion by 2025-26.
As part of 2023-24 spending, the government announced:
- $111 million over three years to grow enrolment in health care, aviation, non-trade construction, energy, technology and business.
- That includes $30 million over three years to expand enrolment in health care programs, and $46 million over the same period for bridging programs and bursaries for internationally trained nurses.
- Funding for 20 new medical school seats at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary this year, 60 additional seats in 2024-25, and another 120 seats in 2025-26.
- $11 million over two years to add 40 seats to Mount Royal University’s bachelor of aviation program, and for 150 bursaries of $10,000.
- Mount Royal will also receive $36 million over the same period to repurpose facilities.
- MacEwan University will receive $35 million over two years beginning in 2024-25 to build a new business school.
- $22 million in 2023-24 to expand U of Calgary’s veterinary medicine program and to build a new veterinary medicine lab.
- $5 million for a multidisciplinary science building at U of Calgary.
- $3 million in 2023-24 for a science facility at the University of Lethbridge.
This is the first budget in three years with no reductions to universities’ operating grants. However, the government will implement a two per cent cap on domestic tuition increases beginning in 2024-25, and the budget shows that postsecondary institutions’ revenues are expected to pay for an increasing proportion of their costs over the next three years.
In response to the budget, U of A president Bill Flanagan said that his institution will receive the same amount of funding as last year, but adjusting for inflation at approximately six per cent, its costs will rise “without any additional provincial support.”
British Columbia’s New Democratic Party government also released its 2023-24 budget on Feb. 28. The province earmarked $2.7 billion this year for postsecondary education and “future skills” – a three per cent increase from what was forecasted last year – and is projecting to spend $8.42 billion by 2025-26.
This year’s spending features:
- $575 million over three years to build on-campus student housing (in 2018, the province committed to add 5,000 new beds).
- Follow-up investments to complete ongoing student housing projects, including $231 million for the University of Victoria, $88 million for Vancouver Island University, and $58 million for Capilano University.
- Follow-up infrastructure investments of $100 million for Royal Roads University to build a new learning centre, $41 million for UVic to expand its law building, $27 million for Simon Fraser University’s new First Peoples Gathering House, and $22 million for Capilano U to complete its Centre for Childhood Studies.
- $8.7 million through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund will go the University of British Columbia for equipment to produce medical isotopes at TRIUMF’s ARIEL facility plus $1.6 million to develop infrastructure and technologies for water treatment systems; and $2.2 million will support the CEDAR supercomputer at SFU.
The province will double student loan maximums beginning in June 2023, and will align the provincial student loan repayment terms with the federal government’s repayment assistance program, effective Aug. 1.
On March 7, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government committed $1.83 billion in funding for advanced education and training, up by $169 million from 2022-23. This follows a seven-year freeze on funding for higher education.
The province promised:
- Increased spending on postsecondary institutions by 11.7 per cent, while capping tuition increases at 2.76 per cent.
- Increased operating grants for Winnipeg-based universities in the range of 10 to 20 per cent, while increasing Brandon University’s grant by 3.5 per cent.
- $1.4 million in 2023-24 to help lower-income and Indigenous students access postsecondary education.
- $724,000 to add four seats in the University of Manitoba’s respiratory therapy program.
- $539,000 for an interprovincial agreement to help the University of Saskatchewan’s veterinary medicine program attract Manitoban students.
- A multi-year plan to train more early learning and child care workers.
New Brunswick’s government, led by the Progressive Conservative party, tabled its budget on March 21. Public universities will see a total of $8.4 million more to their operating funds in 2023-24. The budget also announced:
- A two per cent increase to university operating grants and an additional 1.5 per cent increase as an incentive for higher enrolment numbers.
- An increase to student financial assistance by $7.6 million. The province also made student loans permanently interest-free.
- $2.2 million in 2023-24 for maintenance at universities and at the Maritime College of Forest Technology.
Newfoundland and Labrador
On March 23, the Newfoundland and Labrador government presented its latest budget. The province, led by the Liberal party, is expected to spend $391 million on postsecondary education in 2023-24. Notable announcements in the budget include:
- Memorial University will see a reduction of $10.6 million to its operating grant. In 2021, the province said it would cut Memorial’s grant by a total of $68.4 million over five years.
- Memorial’s faculty of medicine, however, received a boost of $4 million to add five seats in its undergraduate medical education program and five seats in the family medicine residency program for international medical graduates.
- $11.8 million in student aid in 2023-24, an increase of $4.9 million from last year.
Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government put forward its budget for the year on March 23. The province is expected to spend $676 million in 2023-24 on advanced education, which is $161.5 million more than it had projected in 2021-22. The budget allocates:
- $122.8 million in grants for health care training programs.
- $110 million for postsecondary institutions to offer retention incentives to nurses who stay in the province and sign a two-year return of service agreement.
- Follow-up investments totalling $2.8 million to expand nursing enrolment at Cape Breton University, Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University and Nova Scotia Community College.
- $900,000 in 2023-24 to add 16 seats to Dalhousie’s medical school.
- $5 million to support affordable student housing at CBU.
- $25 million for the Nova Scotia Research Opportunities Fund.
Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives tabled their budget for the province on March 23. The government will spend $12.1 billion on the postsecondary education sector in 2023-24, an increase of $800 million over last year. The budget doesn’t offer new operating funding for universities, nor an increase in per-student funding despite the government’s decision to extend a multi-year freeze on domestic student tuition.
The budget does include:
- $2 billion in capital grants over the next 10 years to colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes.
- $124 million in 2023-24 to help upgrade classrooms, technology and environmental sustainability.
- $33 million to add 154 postgraduate medical training positions and 100 medical school spots in 2023-24.
- $200 million to expand health care training and to accredit internationally educated nurses.
- $14.7 million over two years, beginning in 2024-25, for a joint doctor of veterinary medicine program at the University of Guelph and Lakehead University.
- $900,000 over three years in loan assistance for recently graduated vets to relocate to underserved areas.
- $32.4 million over three years to support 6,500 research internships through Mitacs.
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations said that the PC government has continued its “streak of neglect” and “created an unsustainable dynamic for Ontario universities” which will need to rely on international student tuition for revenue.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island held a provincial election on April 3, resulting in a second term in power for the Progressive Conservative party. The PCs ran on a platform that promises:
- Free tuition for paramedics in exchange for two years of in-province service.
- An increase to the George Coles Bursary by $3,500 plus an expansion of the program to include students enrolled in programs not offered at PEI institutions and to those in health care programs.
On March 21, the Coalition Avenir Québec presented its fifth annual budget for the province. It expects to spend $10.5 billion on postsecondary education in 2023-24, a five per cent increase from the previous year.
The government announced:
- $48.4 million in 2023-24 to maintain its pandemic-era increase to student aid and to permanently increase the total living expenses that students can claim through financial assistance.
- $20 million for postsecondary institutions to lease new property.
- $42 million to increase postsecondary graduation rates. That spending covers:
- $10 million to increase international student enrolment in French-language programs.
- $5.3 million to support the recognition of prior learning competencies.
- $4 million to foster collaboration between postsecondary institutions and regional partners.
- $2.7 million to support French-language learners in colleges and at universities with a faculty of education.
- $11 million in 2023-24 to support research and innovation, and the migration of information to cloud computing.
The Saskatchewan Party tabled its provincial budget on March 23. It expects to spend $764.8 million on postsecondary education in 2023-24, an increase of $24.5 million (or 3.3 per cent) from 2022-23. The province now enters the third year of a four-year funding agreement with postsecondary institutions that totals $687 million.
Funding to the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina decreased to $431.8 million total in 2023-24, from $445.9 million in 2022-23.
The budget also committed:
- $58.9 million for equipment and renovations at postsecondary institutions, with targeted funding for infrastructure upgrades and the dental clinic at U of S.
- $47 million for student aid, a 24 per cent increase over 2022-23, and $50,000 for a new Indigenous Languages Scholarship.
- $25.2 million in new funding to expand training programs for health professionals.
- $10 million will support the continuation of a 150-seat expansion in nursing programs and $2.4 million will help train internationally educated health care providers.