The proportion of Ontarians willing to pay more taxes to support education spending has reached an all-time high, according to the latest survey of public attitudes toward education in the province conducted by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
The survey found that more Ontarians support paying higher taxes if that translates into higher spending on education than those who are opposed, 52 per cent versus 45 per cent.
"People are prepared to put their money where their mouth is," the study's authors state. "Comparable surveys in other countries suggest recent increases in personal willingness to pay more taxes for education as cutbacks in services have been directly experienced."
The survey also asked Ontarians to assess the personal financial costs of attending university or college today. A large majority -- 80 per cent of all respondents -- believe that the costs of attending university are too high. Just under 60 per cent think the costs of college are too high.
"There is now a widespread consensus among nearly all social groups that the personal financial costs of attending either university or college are too high," the report concludes. "According to various measures of accessibility, Ontario now has one of the lowest rankings in Canada. Current public opinion appears to be expressing great concern about this situation."
The OISE study is just the latest in a series of surveys indicating growing public support for more public investment in higher education. Earlier in May, an Ipsos-Reid survey commissioned by a coalition of teacher and student groups in Ontario found that 70 per cent of Ontarians are concerned their children will not be able to attend college or university for financial reasons. Of these, 43 per cent said they were very concerned. Fear that their sons and daughters may not be able to get a post-secondary degree is "the overriding reason they are concerned," said Henry Mandelbaum, executive director of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, one of the groups that commissioned the poll.
Mandelbaum noted that tuition fees have risen 60 per cent since the Tories were elected in Ontario in 1995.
He added the survey also found most Ontarians do not think the government's plans to introduce private universities will solve the problem.
"The indication is the public doesn't support private universities," Mandelbaum stated. "What they want is public reinvestment."
The two Ontario polls are consistent with the results of a national Decima poll commissioned by CAUT in March which found strong public support for increased public spending on universities and colleges.