A clear majority of Canadians want new federal funding for post-secondary education targeted to lowering tuition fees, shows a poll
done for CAUT and the Canadian Federation of Students.
According to the survey, 53 per cent of respondents saw reducing tuition fees as a priority use of the new university and college funding announced in the last federal budget. Seventeen per cent said hiring more staff should top the agenda, while 13 per cent favoured creating more spaces for students and 12 per cent wanted an increase in research funding.
“These findings demonstrate that the major issue in post-secondary education remains the high cost of going to university and college,” said CAUT president Greg Allain.
Forty-two per cent of respondents to the poll said the best way to make a college or university education more affordable is to reduce fees for all students, while 32 per cent support up-front, non-repayable grants targeted to students in need, and 23 per cent favour raising limits on the amount of repayable loans students can receive.
Allain said in a surprise result the survey also found that 39 per cent of Canadians believe that a university or college education should be free, like public schools. In Atlantic Canada, nearly half support the elimination of tuition fees.
“As a post-secondary degree becomes as important as a high school diploma was for the last generation, one consequence may be that Canadians see less and less justification for individuals to have to pay out of pocket,” Allain said.
He added that Canadians support the principle of lowering fees even if that means forgoing tax cuts. Nearly six in ten said they would be willing to give up the next planned cut in the GST if the money was used instead to cut tuition.
The survey also found that Canadians are by and large happy with the quality of post-secondary institutions. Fifty per cent said Canadian universities and colleges are of a high or very high standard, while just 20 per cent rated them poorly.
“There’s a strong sense among people in Canada that our universities and colleges, and the people who work in them, are doing a good job,” Alain said.
On the political front, the CAUT/ CFS poll found little change in party support since the last federal election. Overall, the governing Conservatives had 34 per cent support among decided and leaning voters in Canada, while the Liberals were the choice of 28 per cent, the NDP was favoured by 16 per cent and the Green Party stood at 12 per cent.
In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois leads with 33 per cent support, followed by the Conservatives and Liberals who are virtually tied at around 21 per cent. In the rest of Canada, the Conservatives enjoy the support of 38 per cent of voters, eight percentage points ahead of the second placed Liberals.
“It’s clear that no one party is in a position to form a majority government,” Allain said. “This creates an opportunity in our lobbying efforts to put pressure on all the parties to make post-secondary education issues a priority in this Parliament.”
The Decima Research telephone poll of 2,000 adults, conducted between April 5 and April 15, has a margin of error of ±2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.