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Financial information of community colleges and vocational schools, 2017/2018

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Released: 2019-12-17

Student fees accounted for almost 30% of the $9.1 billion in revenue that colleges raised in 2017/2018 to prepare students for today's skills-based labour market, up from just under one quarter five years earlier. Much of the gain was attributable to the increased enrolment of international students, who pay considerably higher tuition fees than Canadians.

From 2016/2017 to 2017/2018, revenue for Canada's 165 public colleges, CEGEPs and polytechnics rose 2% to $9.1 billion, while expenditures rose 3.4% to $9.1 billion.

Colleges receive most of their funding from provincial and territorial governments

Funding from provincial and territorial governments ($5.2 billion) was the largest source of college revenues in 2017/2018. Despite the amount remaining relatively stable since the previous year, the share of total college revenues from provincial and territorial government funding has been falling steadily for five years. Provincial and territorial funding accounted for 57.1% of college revenues in 2017/2018, down from 61.9% in 2013/2014.

Student fees, the second largest source of revenues, accounted for 29.2% of college revenues in 2017/2018. The remaining funds came from ancillary enterprises (5.1%), the federal government (1.9%), donations (0.9%) and other sources (5.8%).

Student fees account for a growing share of revenue

Revenue from student fees has risen by almost one-third, from $2.0 billion in 2013/2014 to $2.7 billion in 2017/2018. The share of total revenues from student fees has grown from 23.7% to 29.2% over this period.

A key factor behind the rise in student fee revenue for colleges is the increased enrolment of international students, who pay much higher tuition fees than domestic students. This increase is similar to that seen in Canadian universities. The number of international students enrolled in colleges rose by just over one-third (35%) from 2013/2014 to 2016/2017 (the most recent data available), while there were 8% fewer domestic students.

Canada's public colleges, CEGEPs and polytechnics also support students, and spent $103.6 million in scholarships, bursaries and other related student supports in 2017/2018, up from $96.2 million in 2016/2017.

Spending on sponsored research rises

Sponsored research refers to an institution's income paid in the form of a legally enforceable contract under which the institution, or an individual within the institution, agrees to undertake a research project or activity. Sponsored research funds are provided through various sources, such as the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, business enterprises, and individuals.

Applied research is the main type of research carried out in colleges, and it is often done in collaboration with local communities and industry. In the 2018 budget, the federal government announced additional funding to colleges over five years to support research activities, which should result in a continued increase in research revenue over the next few years.

The sponsored research fund, which includes revenues intended solely for research, rose from $70.5 million in 2016/2017 to $80.4 million in 2017/2018. Overall, this funding has risen by 36.4% since 2013/2014 because of an increased focus on applied research within the college sector and better reporting of financial data.

Salaries and benefits account for the largest share of total expenditures

Staff compensation (total salaries and benefits) accounted for the largest share of college expenditures (61.4%) at $5.6 billion in 2017/2018.

Colleges spent $891.0 million, or 15.9%, of total staff compensation on benefits in 2017/2018. This includes contributions to pensions, group life insurance and worker's compensation, as well as staff training costs paid for by the institution. Benefits accounted for 16.1% of total staff compensation in 2016/2017.

Capital spending increases as a share of total expenditures

Capital expenditures cover direct investment in properties, buildings, renovations and equipment. Capital expenditures rose by 28.8% year over year and were $960.9 million in 2017/2018. The percentage of total expenses devoted to capital spending increased from 8.5% in 2016/2017 to 10.6% in 2017/2018.

  Note to readers

In the Financial Information of Community Colleges and Vocational Schools (FINCOL) survey, "college" refer to colleges, institutes, CEGEPs and polytechnics.

Revenue and expenditure data are collected from each college and distributed by type of fund in accordance with fund accounting. The main funds are general operating funds (an unrestricted fund that accounts for the institution's primary instruction and operation activities), sponsored research and capital.

All of the financial figures are in 2002 constant dollars (adjusted for inflation).

Additional information for the 2017/2018 FINCOL survey is also available online.

Contact information

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