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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2011

Canadians Want More Action to Improve Education Funding, Poll Finds

Nearly 80 per cent of Canadians believe getting a university or college education is more important than ever, but most say it’s also getting more difficult to pursue post-secondary studies because of rising costs, a new poll has found.

More than half of Canadians say governments are not doing enough to ensure the affordability and accessibility of post-secondary educa­tion in the country, according to a Harris/Decima survey for CAUT unveiled at the organization’s November Council meeting.

Fifty-seven per cent of all Canadian polled also said they would be willing to pay more taxes to support increased funding.

“This has been a consistent result in our polling over the past few years,” said David Robinson, associate executive director of CAUT. “I think it shows that most Canadians understand very well the challenges facing universities and colleges, and they are prepared to pay more taxes to help improve quality and get more students in classrooms.”

Robinson says the cost of a university and college education remains the main concern of Canadians, with about half of respondents agreeing it is more difficult today to pursue post-secondary studies compared to 10 years ago, while just over one third disagree.

“Perhaps reflecting worries about rising household debt, we’re also seeing unease about student debt levels, with 72 per cent in this latest poll saying students have to borrow too much money to fund their education,” Robinson added.

Concerns about costs were reflected in what Canadians see as the main priority for governments when it comes to addressing the needs of universities and colleges.

A majority (54 per cent) said governments should make lowering fees a top priority in post-secondary education, followed by the creation of more student spaces (17 per cent), hiring more teachers (11 per cent) and spending more on research (11 per cent).

Similarly, when asked what universities and colleges should do if they don’t receive the public funding they need, 50 per cent of respondents said they should cut administrative costs, while just 15 per cent favored cuts to staff salaries, 14 per cent said class sizes should be increased and 9 per cent opted for increased tuition fees.

Robinson noted there appears to be little public appetite for cuts to academic staff salaries.

“It’s worth underlining that about half of Canadians reject the myth that academic staff are overpaid, as opposed to the 27 per cent who believe they are,” he said. “This is an important message in light of the difficult bargaining climate we’re in.”

The poll also found some minor shifts in the federal political landscape since the spring election. Na­­tional­ly, the Conservatives lead with 34 per cent support, followed closely by the New Democrats at 29 per cent and the Liberals at 23 per cent.

In Quebec, the NDP is well ahead with 38 per cent support, while the Bloc Québécois trails in second place at 20 per cent, the Liberals are at 18 per cent and the Conservatives at 14 per cent.

Harris/Decima surveyed 2,000 Canadians by phone from Nov. 10­–21. The poll has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.