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‘We have to earn it,’ says college president of government funding

Provincial support for colleges, universities, to be based more on performance indicators than enrolment numbers beginning in spring 2020
20190919-Ron Common-DT
Ron Common, Sault College president, Sept. 19, 2019. Darren Taylor/SooToday

The Sault College board of governors held its first meeting of the 2019-20 academic year while admiring the riverfront view at the college’s Waterfront Adventure Centre Thursday.

College administrators discussed how new government regulations will determine the amount of funding the school gets over a five-year period beginning in 2020, while at the same time celebrating 2,900 full-time post-secondary students beginning this fall, an increase in enrolment of 18 per cent for Sault College over last year.

Those new high enrolment numbers come as a five-year Strategic Mandate Agreement is set to go into effect in April 2020, the provincial government’s funding for Sault College to be determined on how the institution performs in the face of 10 metrics (which will apply to all Ontario colleges and universities).

“It will focus on outcomes. In the past the focus was ‘you tell us what your enrolment number is and we’ll tell you what your grant is.’ They’ve now moved into a different area, focusing on skills and job outcomes and economic and community impact,” said Ron Common, Sault College president, speaking to the board.

“We have to earn it (college funding) based on outcome measures.”

Five metrics will apply beginning in April, Common said.

They include graduate employment rates, looking at the percentage of students working in their field of study six months after graduation.

“It might be difficult because we don’t control the local economy,” Common told the board.

A second government metric will focus on what Common described as ‘institutional strength,’ encouraging each college to differentiate itself in program offerings.

A third metric will be the college’s graduation rate, comparing next spring’s graduation rate with graduation rates in the previous three years.

“It’s a model for continuous improvement. We’re expected to show progress and improvement over the previous year for the next five years,” Common said.

“I fully expect our graduation rate is going to increase...we have a large proportion of international students, highly motivated.”

A fourth metric will measure how involved the college is with the community, the fifth based on its economic impact on the Sault and Algoma.

“They’re going to look at our budget and see how our students buy groceries and pay rent, how some of our professors buy houses, they’re going to see what our economic impact is versus the enrolment figure model,” Common said.

Future metrics will measure wages earned by graduates two years after graduation (numbers the government will track), and a yet-to-be-developed skills test for students.

The awarding of government funding based on the metrics, Common said, will involve Sault College competing with itself year to year as opposed to competing with other colleges and universities.

The college will earn, for example, 70 per cent of available government funding based on a certain metric if it scores a 70 out of 100 on that metric, Common said.

The college president is optimistic.

“We welcome performance based outcomes and we’ll meet those expectations,” Common said, speaking to SooToday after Thursday’s meeting.

“This is the highest enrolment level we’ve ever had in the history of Sault College. We’re at 2,900 full time post-secondary students and we expect to be at 3,000 in January with the new intake. 3,000 is a goal that we all aspired to get to,” Common told the board.

That number, Common said, does not include Sault College’s non-postsecondary students, continuing education students and apprenticeship students.

When those other students are taken into account, the college has over 7,000 registered students, Common said.

“There are only 70,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie and I could argue that one in every 10 of them are enrolled at Sault College. If you go to George Brown College or Centennial College in Toronto you don’t have one in 10 of the population enrolled at their colleges, so I’m very proud of that.”

The increase in enrolment at Sault College this fall is due in large part to having 930 international students on campus, hailing from 16 countries, mostly from Asia, Common said.


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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