Study Indicates Insufficient Funding For At-Risk Students

Contributed by Colleges Ontario

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.

At-risk students are those 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 in October shows there is much more to do.

The report said the support services provide an estimated 13 percent 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.

“Support for at-risk students pays huge rewards for the community and for the people who go on to have strong careers and a good life,” said Colleges Ontario President Franklin. “We’re committed to working with the government to help greater numbers of students get a college education.”