[Jiri Flogel / shutterstock.com]
Educators & students call on the next government to do more for higher education.
The decision by Ontario’s opposition parties to reject the minority Liberal government’s budget, tabled in the legislature by Finance Minister Charles Sousa on May 1, has resulted in the dissolution of Parliament and a general election to take place June 12.
Although a moot point now, Kate Lawson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, says her group was puzzled by the messaging around the Liberal’s budget that was “regrettably quiet on universities.”
“In the 2014 budget, the Liberals outlined their desire to create jobs, boost the economy and foster a fairer society,” she said. “It is therefore surprising the budget contained no new investment in universities — institutions that excel at achieving all three goals.”
Students were also disappointed by the lack of attention to rising tuition fees in the proposed provincial budget and were quick to point out that Ontario is currently the most expensive province in which to pursue a post-secondary education.
“By putting access to post-secondary education on the back burner, this government is condemning a generation to a future of financial insecurity and uncertainty,” said Alastair Woods, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “If we fail to act now, we will not only jeopardize young people’s prospects, but the very economic and social health of our province.”
As campaigning for the provincial election ramps up, students and educators want each of the parties to make post-secondary education a key platform issue.
“We’re hoping it can be a valuable opportunity for parties to engage with youth and students about the issues that really matter to us,” said Woods. “We are a generation struggling with high tuition fees, record debt levels, and dismal job prospects, and are looking to see our concerns and priorities reflected in their platforms. Reducing tuition fees, alleviating student debt and ending unpaid internships are big priorities for us.”
Lawson echoed the sentiment: “Increased public investment would allow universities to preserve the quality of education while ensuring they remain affordable for students and their families. It is imperative that the next government makes the investments our universities need to fulfill all of their vital educational, social and economic roles.”