Professors and academic librarians across Ontario are welcoming changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to make higher education more accessible to low-income students, announced in today’s Budget. At the same time, they are reminding the government that new investment in universities is urgently needed to ensure that that every student has access to a high-quality learning experience.
“The new Ontario Student Grant (OSG) is an important step in helping students from low-income backgrounds access the many individual, social, and economic benefits of a university education,” said Judy Bates, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “Access is critically important, but we also need to ask: Access to what? Universities need adequate public resources to provide quality education for every student who walks through the door.”
Ontario currently provides the lowest level of per-student public funding to universities in Canada. Under projections released in the 2016 Ontario Budget, this situation will only get worse. When inflation is taken into account, funding for universities will actually decrease over the next three years, threatening educational quality.
Conversely, renewed public investment in quality would allow universities to hire more full-time professors and offer small, interactive classes, while creating cutting-edge classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. In addition, precarious employment is on the rise at Ontario’s campuses, and more financial resources would help promote good jobs for all. New investment is also needed to stop the unsustainable rise in Ontario’s tuition fees – already the highest in Canada – and make sure the financial aid reforms launched today are effective.
“It is encouraging to see the Government of Ontario invest in students,” added Bates. “Now we need to invest in universities to make sure those students – and every citizen of Ontario – continues to benefit from world-class higher education institutions. The Budget reiterated the government’s plan to reform the university funding model, and this is an ideal opportunity to address chronic underfunding.”