TORONTO – The 2015 Ontario Budget repeatedly acknowledges that universities are vital to economic prosperity, yet does not make any new investments in public funding for higher education institutions. In fact, under the current plan, per-student university funding will reach its lowest level since the 1960s. This has professors and academic librarians questioning the government’s commitment to a high quality higher education system that is truly public, high quality, and accessible to every student.
“People are rightly concerned about the government’s plan to privatize Hydro One,” said Kate Lawson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “At the same time, we need to recognize the quiet shift of higher education costs away from the public realm and onto students and their families. For the first time ever, tuition fees now account for more than half of university budgets – this is another form of privatization.”
Ontario already has the lowest level of per-student public funding in Canada alongside the highest tuition fees. As per-student funding declines, the hiring of full-time professors has not kept pace with increases in enrolment. Instead, universities have turned to huge numbers of contract faculty with no job security and low pay. The working conditions of faculty are the learning conditions of students, so this shift has serious implications for the quality of university education in Ontario.
“Students, contract faculty members, and their families are now paying for the government’s unwillingness to invest in universities. In the longer term, every Ontarian will feel the effects of the erosion of public university funding,” said Lawson.
“Public funding for universities is critical for ensuring a high quality learning experience that is accessible to every student, regardless of their financial background. In turn, well-funded, public universities are absolutely vital to a strong economy and a fair society. We need to invest in our universities to maintain excellence and to make sure they remain public. When we do that, we’re actually investing in students, in communities, and in the future of our province.”