Hot! Ontario political parties don’t make the grade on higher education

OCUFA.on.ca – OCUFA Report – Volume 8, Issue 20
May 27, 2014.  Editor

The grades are in: Wynne, Hudak, and Horvath all receive failing marks when it comes to postsecondary issues in Ontario. All parties have failed to respond adequately to PSE in their platforms according to the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

The Liberal’s plan seems to be one of benign neglect, the NDP’s proposal does not go far enough and the PC’s proposals would lead to outright devastation of postsecondary funding. No party has proposed measures in their platforms to address the real and pressing needs of the higher education sector, argues Kate Lawson, OCUFA president.

“According to the party platforms, Ontario’s universities don’t warrant much attention,” Lawson said. “But those of us who work and study in the sector know that chronic underfunding is taking its toll on our universities and the education our students receive.”

Ontario currently has the lowest per-student funding and the highest student-faculty ratio in the country. Training, colleges and universities account for $7.3 billion in government expenditure every year. Universities alone enrol nearly 450,000 students and employ more than 17,000 professors and academic librarians.

Despite this major impact, not a single party running in the Ontario election delivered a clear vision for the future for the postsecondary education sector.

“By ignoring the realities faced by our universities, the parties are neglecting the academic and social development that comes from higher education. And by ignoring the important contributions that higher education makes, they’re ignoring jobs and the economy.”

OCUFA supports the limited provisions laid out in the Ontario Liberal and NDP platforms. Despite these proposed improvements, none of the parties offered solutions to the larger issues facing higher education in the province, including widening student faculty ratios and inadequate levels of per-student funding.

“We must do more to make Ontario the leader in postsecondary education it should be,” Lawson said. “Any level of investment will help our universities and colleges thrive.”

OCUFA is calling for renewed public investment in higher education. Increased funding is needed to bring per-student funding in line with the national average and to hire additional full-time faculty members to help reduce class sizes, and increase opportunities for student-faculty interaction – important indicators of a high quality university education.

OCUFA is the voice of 17,000 university professors and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. On behalf of its members, it is committed to building a high quality and accessible higher education system in the province.

For more information:  Caitlin Kealey < ocufa_outreach@ocufa.on.ca > 613-818-7956

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OCUFA election website goes live

OCUFA launched its election website last week with the goal of educating and empowering Ontario voters and highlighting the importance of higher education in the election campaign. It offers a Take Action feature which allows voters to call on party leaders and local candidates to prioritize higher education in this election and to invest in the quality, accessibility and affordability of our universities. Without this investment, our universities are at risk.

In addition to the Take Action feature, the website houses a range of election resources, including expert analysis of issues affecting higher education in the campaign, in-depth analysis of the party platforms, and a copy of the higher education questionnaire that OCUFA has distributed to the party leaders.  Additional materials, including party leader responses to the OCUFA questionnaire, will be posted on the website as they become available. Check back often for the latest news and resources.

In the meantime, watch what higher education expert Glen Jones, professor at the University of Toronto, thinks are the important policy issues to look out for in the election, read our analysis of the Ontario PC Party platform and check out the OCUFA higher education survey for the party leaders.

Ontario Liberals’ plan misses the opportunity to adequately address postsecondary education sector’s needs
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is disappointed that the Ontario Liberal Party platform did not do more to respond to the pressing needs of the province’s postsecondary education sector.

The Liberals provided a more comprehensive plan for higher education than the Ontario PC or New Democratic parties. Unlike the other parties, the Liberals addressed infrastructure, research, enrolment growth and funding in their platform.

OCUFA also commends the Liberal Party for including the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan in their platform. This proposal represents an important step towards ensuring retirement security for all Ontarians.

Despite these improvements, the provisions included in the Liberal platform are still inadequate to address the real and pressing needs of the sector.

“The Liberals could have used the current election campaign as an opportunity to seriously consider the challenges facing the postsecondary education sector and committed themselves to making renewed investments in our universities. Instead they chose to continue the status quo,” said Kate Lawson, OCUFA president. “Ontario currently has the lowest per-student funding in Canada and the highest student-faculty ratio in Canada.”

OCUFA is calling for renewed public investment in higher education. Increased funding is needed to bring per-student funding in line with the national average and to hire additional full-time faculty members to help reduce class sizes, and increase opportunities for student-faculty interaction – important indicators of a high quality university education.

“This election is our chance to make Ontario a world leader in postsecondary education,” Lawson said. “Investing in colleges and universities provides opportunities for Ontario’s youth and supports the economic engine of Ontario.”
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Ontario NDP platform falls short of tackling major issues in higher education
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) commends the NDP’s proposal to freeze provincial tuition fees and eliminate interest on student loans, but notes that the party needs to do much more to ensure the long-term health of the Ontario postsecondary sector.

“The NDP platform goes further than any other official platform released to date in ensuring that students can access and afford a postsecondary education,” said Kate Lawson, President of OCUFA. “But there’s still more that needs to be done to improve postsecondary education in Ontario.”

Ontario undergraduate students pay the highest tuition in Canada at $7,259 per year on average. The NDP promise to freeze tuition and eliminate interest on student loans represents an important step toward ensuring the affordability and accessibility of higher education for all students.

Any tuition freeze must be accompanied by additional public funding for universities to compensate for lost tuition revenue and maintain the level of per-student funding that institutions receive. Based on the Ontario NDP platform’s cost estimates, it is unclear if this would be the case.

Despite some positive proposals, the Ontario NDP fell short on tackling major issues facing the province’s universities and colleges. “There’s more to higher education policy than freezing tuition. Ontario’s universities receive the lowest per-student funding in Canada and have the highest student-faculty ratio in the country. Failure to address these challenges puts our universities – and our students’ educations – at risk,” Lawson said.

OCUFA is calling for renewed public investment in higher education. Increased funding is needed to bring per-student funding in line with the national average and to hire additional full-time faculty members to help reduce class sizes, and increase opportunities for student-faculty interaction – important indicators of a high quality university education.

“There’s still much to be done to make Ontario the world leader of postsecondary education that it should be,” Lawson said. “Investing in colleges and universities provides opportunities for Ontario’s youth and supports the economic engine of Ontario.”

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