Ontario faculty demand PSE funding increase from provincial government

TORONTO (CUP) – Students across Ontario are pleased to have one more group on their side in their bid to lower tuition and make post-secondary education more accessible in the province.

Last month, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) released a report entitled “Postsecondary education in Ontario and the recession,” in which they called for increased financial support from the provincial government for post-secondary institutions across the province.

“We have a long-time concern of the economic underpinnings of post-secondary education in the province. There are extraordinary pressures on the system,” says Mark Langer, OCUFA president.

Langer, an associate professor of film studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, is seeing the negative effects that high tuition and inaccessibility are having on students across the province.

“A good part of the university experience is not only going to class, but the cultural aspect. Students don’t do that anymore, or they’re doing it to a far less extent than in the past because they’re busy working,” he says.

“Students are forced to take on more debt or to leave school, and most are leaving school with an enormous debt.”

Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) chairperson Shelley Melanson believes the report will be a good tool to have when it comes to lobbying the government in the future.

“[The report] is a warning signal to the government that they have some serious work to do when it comes to building this framework,” says Melanson.

“Quality is affected when proper investment isn’t put into education . . . and post-secondary education is going to require some pretty significant investment.”

The fact that Ontario universities have come to rely on endowments to fund their yearly operations is the biggest area of concern for OCUFA and the CFS-O.

And this year, universities are having an even harder time funding their necessary operations because the recession has hit their endowment investments, explains Langer.

“It’s creating a bad hiring environment for new faculty, we’re seeing cutbacks to library services, more universities are trying to pack in more and more students, and access to facilities and faculties is getting more limited,” Langer says.

OCUFA is calling for the government to step in and provide stable funding for the province’s post-secondary institutions.

“Ontario has the second highest tuition in Canada, the highest student to faculty ratio of any jurisdiction in North America, and the lowest amount of public funding,” says Langer. “Ontario should be performing at least the average, but we are pushing for excellence.”

“Just to meet the standard the government has to put $1.1 billion a year into post-secondary education, but I don’t see this as an expense. What could be more important than training our students for a knowledge-based economy,” he says.

“We need that kind of investment for Ontario to prosper in the future.”