The long anticipated Drummond Report on how to address public services in Ontario in the face of a dire fiscal climate has been released.
There are some hard hitting recommendations but higher education got off easy. The summary from the HESA blog is accurate (if a bit cynical):
Specifically, he [Drummond] recommends keeping health expenditure growth over the next seven years to 2.5% per year (good luck with that!), education to 1%, PSE to 1.5% and everywhere else to -2.4%.
(How did PSE get that lucky? I’m guessing that having two serving senior university officials – Dominic Giroux and Carol Stephenson – among that four task members didn’t hurt.)
Frankly, Ontario PSE has been given a gift; now what we will do with it?
The HESA folks don’t expect too much:
If I had to guess, I’d say very few [of the Drummond recommendations] will be implemented any time soon. Universities and colleges will be grabbing that 1.5%, praying the health care leviathan doesn’t eat it into it, and letting bureaucratic inertia take care of the rest.
While the limit of a 1.5% annual increase will create significant challenges for universities and colleges, it does not preclude us from making dramatic and innovative changes.
I will be looking for strong, enlightened leadership from the universities and colleges to step forward and articulate, with MTCU, a new vision for higher education in Ontario and new ways to accomplish this. Pollyanna? Perhaps. But we know a lot about what should be done. And much of it goes well beyond the Drummond recommendations.
If we sit on our hands and simply deal with our local fiscal challenges, we will have missed an historic opportunity to demonstrate the value of higher education to Ontario. If we don’t use this “gift” wisely, the public will have every right to turn on us. The ball is in our court.