In response to an inaccurate and inflammatory article published by Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente, OCUFA President wrote a letter to the editor. An extract was published on the Globe & Mail Website. The full text of the letter is reproduced below.
As usual, Margaret Wente seems more interested in her favorite talking points than in actually understanding the issue. Her column “Pension Ponzi a Raw Deal for Students” makes several misleading statements that need to be corrected.
With a few exceptions, university pension plans are governed by university administrations. The decision to impose contribution holidays rests with the administrators, not the plan members. The same is true for investment choices. When a plan goes into the red, the administrators are usually responsible.
The column suggests that all university plans are unsustainable, and rhymes off a butcher’s bill of grim deficits. But she fails to mention the many university plans that are currently posting a surplus. Again, this has everything to do with plan management, not some fundamental flaw in the university pensions.
Ms. Wente is dead wrong when she claims that the rising cost of tuition is due to unfunded pension liabilities. Tuition has gone up because governments are no longer funding higher education adequately, and students have been asked to pick up the slack. Per-student government funding in Ontario is now 25 per cent less than it was in 1990. Over the same period, enrolment has increased by nearly 60 per cent. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out why students are paying more.
Why is this column so wrong? It may have something to do with Ms. Wente’s choice of experts. Bill Tufts is a consultant, and his list of clients includes the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Fraser Institute. Whatever else can be said about these organizations, they have never been known to approachanythingin the public sector with an objective eye. We shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Tufts is so critical – he knows who pays his bills.
Universities and pensions are complicated. Perhaps Ms. Wente should spend a bit more time understanding the facts, rather than twisting them to fit her predictable and tired list of complaints.
President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations