In the midst of a pandemic, universities are filling their pockets

Canadian universities have benefited from the pandemic, reaping record revenues in 2020 and 2021 as students bear the brunt of inflation and housing crisis.

Canadian universities reported unprecedented surplus revenue in the wake of the pandemic as schools benefited from the strong performance of stock markets last year.

According to a Statistics Canada report released Tuesday, Canadian universities raked in $7.3 billion in surplus revenue in the 2020-2021 school year, the highest tally since the federal agency began collecting data in 2000. Revenue rose 12.8% from the previous year to $46.3 billion while expenses fell 3.8% to $39 billion.

Much of the rise in revenue can be attributed to strong equity performance in 2021. Universities earned a record $5.4 billion from investments in 2020-21, up from $44.3 million the year previous year and an annual average of $1.4 billion over the previous five years.

Due to the pandemic, many activities on campus have not been offered, without reducing tuition fees. Universities cut spending by 3.8% to $39 billion from $40.6 billion a year earlier.

Second source of revenue after provincial funding ($15.1 billion), tuition fees brought in $13.3 billion to universities.

According to Statistics Canada, revenue from tuition fees would fill the gap in provincial funding. From 2010-11 to 2020-21, tuition revenue increased from 21.5% to 28.8%, while provincial funding decreased from 41.5% to 32.5% .

Universities are unlikely to report such high revenues in the coming year, given the stock market decline since the start of this year, according to Statistics Canada. However, the resumption of activities on campus could lead to an increase in income from tuition fees and ancillary services.

In 2020-2021, universities lost nearly $1.5 billion, or 47.6%, of their revenue generated from the sale of services and products, which was mainly revenue from residences and other ancillary services. In 2019-20, these revenues represented 7.6% of the total revenue of Canadian universities. It stood at 3.5% in 2020-2021.

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