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Frequently asked questions

Ryerson funding & special projects

Approximately 56 per cent of our operating budget comes from tuition fees, 40 per cent from grants, and four per cent from other income generating activities.

Source of Operating Revenues, 2019-2010; Fees 56%; Grants 40%; Other 4%

Approximately three-quarters of our expenditures are for academic and student support operations, with remaining funds supporting activities such as building maintenance, campus computing and technological services, research services, and administrative functions.

More than three-quarters of our operating expenditures are comprised of salaries and benefits. The majority of these costs are determined by negotiated collective agreements with our three main unions: the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Pie chart showing expense distribution

In January 2019, the Government of Ontario announced a two-year Tuition Fee Framework by requiring universities and colleges to reduce 2019-20 tuition fee levels by 10 per cent (relative to 2018-19 levels and freezing tuition into 2020-21). The freeze affects all programs that are eligible for government funding. Fees for international students and cost-recovery programs are not subject to this policy.

To date, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has not announced the Tuition Fee Framework for 2021-22. However, it is expected that the freeze will continue for at least one more year. Foregoing a tuition increase for even one year has a cumulative impact that will last for years to come. In every year following the freeze, any increases will be based on a lower tuition amount, meaning there will be a continued fiscal gap. 

Ryerson will continue ongoing conversations with our sector partners and take part in discussions with the Ministry regarding guidelines and implementation details. In tandem, Ryerson will continue to develop contingency plans and options to address potential revenue loss.

We are asking faculties and divisions across the university to plan for a base budget reduction of three and a half per cent.

We have just begun the budget cycle for 2021-22 and will be looking at numerous ways to address reductions in funding and increased expenses, but will continue to put the needs of our students first. Required courses will not be cancelled due to budget cuts, however, the number of electives offered next year may be reduced.

The university receives funding for capital projects from sources such as special, one-time government infrastructure allocations or from donations, and the funds are earmarked for specific building projects. Funds for capital projects are one-time only and are not part of the university’s base budget, which funds ongoing expenditures. Capital projects are therefore not affected by base budget reductions, and deferring capital projects will not result in base savings to the university.

Ryerson’s Academic Plan 2020-25 incorporates extensive feedback from students, faculty, and staff. Budget planning and resource allocations are directly tied to the following five priorities, which will guide the direction of the university for the next five years:

  1. The Student Experience;
  2. Scholarly, Research, and Creative Activity and Graduate Studies;
  3. Advancing Indigenous Initiatives;
  4. Innovation: Continuing to Challenge the Status Quo; and,
  5. Community and Urban Partnerships.

Ryerson has also undertaken broad internal and external consultations on a range of foundational strategies that will help guide and shape our institution over the next five to ten years. A developing blueprint, these five complementary plans (including the Academic Plan) articulate our academic and strategic directions:

View all guiding plans

Uniting these plans is the Ryerson Strategic Vision 2020-2030. This overarching framework serves as the foundation or roadmap, moving Ryerson toward the same vision and goals.

Donations tend to be directed to support designated student bursaries, short-term initiatives or specific projects, rather than being available for general operating purposes.

For permanent staff positions and long-term commitments (e.g., maintenance of buildings, utilities), the university cannot rely on short-term donations or other one-time only funds such as short-term grants or contracts.

Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) are documents established through negotiations with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities that provide universities and colleges an opportunity to communicate priorities, identify areas of institutional strength/focus, and set performance metrics.  Ryerson and the Ministry signed the 2020-2025 Strategic Mandate Agreement, external link on August 31, 2020.

Funding related to performance on metrics may be at risk under the 2020-2025 Strategic Mandate Agreement, which begins 2022-23. Furthermore, there will be a two-year delay in the activation of performance-based funding resulting from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SMA3 funding metrics.

Ryerson is participating in the Ministry’s first SMA3 Annual Evaluation process (from December 11, 2020 to February 22, 2021) which continues data collection and analysis, assesses 2020-21 performance, and sets targets for 2021-22. By 2024-25, the Ontario government will allocate 60 per cent of existing post-secondary funding based on the achievement of targets on the ten metrics.

Yes, for example Ryerson University is expanding its global partnerships into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with the launch of a satellite campus in Cairo, Egypt. Ryerson’s Cairo campus, whose physical presence will be facilitated by Universities of Canada in Egypt, will give local students the opportunity to earn a Ryerson degree in an environment that emulates the Canadian university experience.

Another example is the long-term strategic partnership between Ryerson and Navitas. The cornerstone of this partnership, known as Ryerson University International College (RUIC), external link, launched in Winter 2021. It is a new, additional pathway program for international students designed to ease the transition to a Canadian university environment and to prepare them for academic success. The partnership will accelerate Ryerson’s internationalization goals by growing and diversifying its international student population and enhance Ryerson’s global reach.

Our current level of revenue is constrained by limits on domestic enrolment. These new initiatives will advance our university’s strategic vision and generate new revenues that would otherwise not be available.

While Ryerson regularly examines a wide array of potential revenue initiatives, 93 per cent of its revenue is from government grants and tuition, which are driven by enrolment and subject to government frameworks and policies. 

Two recent examples of such revenue generating initiatives are:

  • Ryerson University International College (RUIC), which is a new, additional pathway to Ryerson for international students; and, 
  • The launch of a satellite campus in Cairo, Egypt as part of Universities of Canada in Egypt (UCE) whereby students will be able to earn a Ryerson degree. 

Carry-forward reserves are limited and cannot fully offset the need for a budget cut. To be financially sustainable, it is important that ongoing expenditures do not exceed revenues.  It is important to note that carry-forwards are one-time funds, so it is not possible to rely on them for ongoing expenditures.

Along with sector partners and the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), we continue to make the case for sustainable, ongoing funding.  While we have made some small gains this year, including a modest increase in funds for maintenance of facilities, we have not yet attained an increase in the level of our operating grants. This continues to be a goal, and we will continue to demonstrate the need for an increased level of ongoing funding. That said, with a record level Ontario deficit of $38.5 billion being projected for 2020-21, followed by $33.1 billion in 2021-22, it is unlikely that we will see significant changes in funding from the government.

In respect to COVID-19 specific funding, we continue to work with COU and other sector partners to ensure that the Government is aware of the impact of the pandemic on universities, and to advocate for additional supports to mitigate the fiscal impact.

The funding metrics that are part of the government’s Strategic Mandate Agreement process make an increasing portion of an institution’s existing government grants subject to meeting performance targets rather than allocating any new funding.

Students, faculty & staff

We understand the financial burden faced by many students, which is why Ryerson has increased student financial assistance by 51 per cent over the past five years. In 2019-20, Ryerson provided $48.6 million in student financial support (scholarships and bursaries), and a further $4.3 million in work-study support.  2020-21 year-to-date expenditures as of January 21, 2021 are $43.2 million, which is an increase of four per cent over the same period last year.

Our focus is on providing access to education. That is why Ryerson has prioritized making 

funds available to students in greatest financial need through numerous bursaries. To date, the university has been able to distribute over $5M directly to students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through various bursary programs. Students can find more information about what additional financial assistance opportunities are available above on this page.

As of October 3, 2020, The Government of Canada has ended both the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). If you were receiving CERB or CESB over the summer and/or are in need of government assistance, the federal government has modified or created new supports for Canadians that you may be able to take advantage of. Full details of the government’s offerings are available on the Student Financial Assistance COVID-19 supports page.

International tuition has been reviewed on a program-by-program basis and, in some instances, has been increased to be more in line with our peer institutions.

As demonstrated in past years, Ryerson University is focused on our core values throughout the budget-planning and consultation process – especially protecting and enhancing the student experience. The 2021-2022 budget cycle will continue to prioritize our student community as we address implications and opportunities for our virtual learning environment. To that end, the university has invested in provisions for remote learning, such as virtual lab software, electronic Library resources, counselling and advising for students, and increased hours for teaching assistants.

Effective 2019-20, Ryerson decreased domestic tuition by 10 per cent in comparison to 2018-19 levels, and it remained frozen in 2020-21. Our planning for 2021-22 assumes that we will be required to keep tuition frozen at this level. 

To date, student financial assistance expenditures so far in 2020-21 are $43 million which represents an increase of more than 4 per cent over the previous year.

Ryerson has prioritized employment continuity wherever possible both during the pandemic and in the face of almost three years of tuition reductions and freezes.

The vast majority of Ryerson’s expenditures are for salaries and benefits. Unfortunately, at this stage, it is possible that there could be some vacant positions that are closed and some lay-offs. Ryerson will continue to make every effort to protect as many jobs as possible.

Increases for unionized employees are negotiated and will continue as outlined in currently active collective agreements. In cases where collective agreements have expired, any negotiated increases will align with provincial legislation. 

Increases for management and confidential employees and senior leaders are also mandated by provincial legislation.

Enrolment, Recruitment and International


Student demand for Ryerson programs remains very strong and we are on track to meet domestic enrolment targets this coming Fall 2021. It is important to note that Ryerson is unable to increase domestic enrolment because the government has capped the number of funded spaces.


Due to the global pandemic, it is unclear how and to what extent international students will be able to join us for 2021-22.

The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education offers a combination of degree-credit and certificate-credit courses.  Degree credit enrolment is counted as part of our enrolment that is funded by government, which, at the overall university level, is capped.  Other Chang School enrolments that are not degree-credit are not subject to limits and we will work to increase enrolment in these courses.

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities has capped government funding for domestic students, and grant levels are not adjusted for inflation. In 2019-20, Ryerson was required to reduce domestic tuition by 10 per cent in comparison to 2018-19. Tuition has remained frozen at that level throughout 2020-21. Our budget planning for 2021-22 assumes continuation of the freeze.

More than 90 per cent of our operating revenues come from tuition fees and grants associated with enrolment. In other words, our financial health as an institution relies on enrolment. Demand for Ryerson programs is very strong. Early data on applications for Fall 2021 from secondary school students indicate an increase of two per cent in demand across the Province as a whole. While applications to Ryerson from secondary students decreased by three per cent this year, Ryerson continues to have the third highest number of applications in the Province.

That said, domestic spaces are capped by the government, and given the success of our growth in recent years we are at the top of the funding corridor, and this precludes us from simply adding more domestic students to generate additional revenue.


COVID-19 impacts

Ryerson is in good financial standing, but like all sectors across the province, country and the world, universities are also feeling the impact of the pandemic. Our institutions are experiencing broad and increasingly complex financial repercussions that will have long-term implications for our sector and the students and the communities they serve. 

Additionally, Ryerson is required by our Board of Governors to develop an annual budget that does not result in a deficit. This ensures that we are able to remain forward-looking and do not accumulate financial issues over time.

No. Ryerson remains responsible for taxes, utilities and lease fees during the pandemic, and as such, the university’s regular expenses have not changed. Ryerson is continuing to maintain buildings across campus to ensure they are safe, clean and ready to reopen when we are permitted to do so.

Much of the teaching, learning and instruction that students would normally receive if they were on campus continues to be available remotely. Support services such as the Academic Accommodation Support and the Centre for Student Development and Counseling are being offered remotely. A list of services available can be found on the Campus Status page. 

Remote instruction requires the same number of instructors and student support staff and requires additional resources to support rapidly changing pedagogical and technological needs.

The university’s normal expenses have not changed due to the pandemic. Teaching, learning, instruction and support services that students would normally receive if they were on campus continue to be available remotely. 

In fact, in response to the pandemic, the university has incurred additional costs. Projections for COVID-19 costs and losses for 2020-21 are approximately $30 million. Expenditures include items such as student bursaries, provisions for learning and teaching remotely such as new software licences, investments in electronic Library materials, investments in the development of online courses and increased hours for teaching assistants, just to name a few.  At the same time, various service ancillary units have experienced revenue losses due to the pandemic.

It should be noted that there was a 10% reduction in domestic tuition in 2019-20 from 2018-19 levels, and fees remained frozen at this level in 2020-21, so we entered this year with constrained resources in comparison to prior years.

In March 2020, the Ontario government announced it was distributing $25 million to be shared among all publicly-assisted universities, colleges and Indigenous institutes to help address each institution's most pressing needs in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as deep cleaning, purchasing medical supplies or offering mental health supports. 

Ryerson continues to work with the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and other sector partners to ensure that the government is aware of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on universities, and to advocate for support.

Based on long-term enrolment plans, we anticipate that the university will continue to receive increased enrolment over time. We also expect that much of our activity will resume to an in-person mode when it is safe to do so. In order to accommodate this growth, the university will need to increase our current stock of space, so there are no plans at this time to sell spaces that we currently own. 

It is possible, however, that a number of Ryerson employees will work at home to a greater extent than in the past. We will have a better estimate of this once restrictions in our province are lessened and we are able to welcome more employees back to campus.

Leased spaces are regularly reviewed to ensure that it meets our needs and provides value, and we are currently exploring opportunities to provide more flexibility for our students, faculty and staff that could also generate savings to the university.