Providing essential supports and services for at-risk students at Ontario’s colleges has created a funding shortfall of over $160 million a year, says a new report by Deloitte.
“Students must get the support they need to complete their programs,” said Dr. Audrey J. Penner, vice president, Academic and Student Success of Northern College. “All students should have the opportunity to acquire the professional qualifications that help them reach their full potential.”
Students at risk are students who require additional assistance to complete their program, including services that address language barriers, mental health challenges and learning disabilities. Many at-risk students are from the fastest growing populations in the college system, such as recent immigrants.
The Deloitte report, Enabling Sustained Student Success, found colleges spend $206 million a year to support at-risk students while the provincial funding is about $45 million a year. To meet the shortfall, colleges must divert dollars from college operations and academic programming.
The Ontario government has acknowledged there are funding challenges. In May, the province announced an additional $6 million a year to support mental health services at colleges and universities. However, the Deloitte report issued today shows there is much more to do.
The report said the support services provide an estimated 13 per cent rate of return on investment.
It said programs for at-risk students help produce more highly qualified graduates who will earn higher incomes. Along with helping more people find rewarding careers, the benefits to Ontario include higher tax revenues and reduced social assistance costs.
In addition to addressing the funding challenge, the report highlights other steps that should be taken to improve the support for at-risk students. These include measures to help improve the students’ transition from secondary school to college.
“Supporting our most vulnerable students benefits the entire community,” said Dr. Audrey J. Penner. “We’re committed to helping greater numbers of students graduate and go on to great careers.”