More focus on the importance of post-secondary education to Canadian society, a need for increased, stable and predictable funding to support post-secondary education, and improved student aid were the key recommendations coming out of a recent policy forum sponsored last month by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
The forum featured a panel discussion with representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the Fédération des étudiantes universitaire du Québec and CAUT. Paul Jones, policy and education officer for CAUT, broached the association's proposal for a Canada Post-Secondary Education Act. The program also included presentations by guest speakers Don Drummond, senior vice-president and chief economist at TD Bank Financial Group, and William Easton, chair of the National Professional Association Coalition on Tuition.
During the roundtable on post-secondary education and lifelong learning, panel members developed a consensus on the challenges facing post-secondary education in Canada and the steps necessary to restore the system to health.
Chronic underfunding by federal and provincial governments was acknowledged as the basic problem and the symptoms of this underfunding - deteriorating physical infrastructures, declining numbers of academic staff and rapid tuition increases - were identified. The session wrapped up addressing some of these issues, including restoring federal funding for post-secondary education through a new accountability-based mechanism of federal/ provincial transfer payments, making needs-based grants a higher component of student financial aid, easing the burden of massive debt loads by amending the Bankruptcy Act to make it fairer to students and extending the student loan repayment grace period from six months to one year.