Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities hints at new tuition framework

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Last week, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities Brad Duguid gave an interview to the Toronto Star indicating the Government of Ontario was close to announcing a new tuition framework for Ontario. Emphasizing his desire to find an arrangement that works for both students and institutions, the Minister had this to say:
 
“I’m confident we’ll strike a balance that I hope will be supported by students and institutions, but I will be looking at this through the lens of parents and students first. My goal will be to reach a balance that is fair to students, acceptable to post-secondary institutions and that focuses on ensuring both quality and affordability.”
 
The Minister also indicated that he was not in favour of extending the current framework, which allows tuition fees to rise by an average of five per cent. There has been some suggestion that the new framework will still allow increases, but at a lower rate.
 
OCUFA believes strongly that students in Ontario pay too much in tuition fees. The gradual decline in per-student government funding for universities has forced institutions to shift the cost of delivering a high quality education onto students. Ontario now has the lowest per-student funding in Canada. Unsurprisingly, we also have the highest tuition fees in the country, and our students are paying for a historically high proportion of university operating budgets. Students are also graduating with unprecedented levels of debt. To ensure our institutions remain affordable and accessible, it is imperative that tuition fees be brought under control.
 
A new tuition framework with slower fee increases would be a welcome relief to students. However, in order to maintain educational quality, the government must simultaneously increase per-student funding to replace lost tuition fee revenue. Otherwise, quality – already under strain at Ontario’s universities – will suffer. The best way to ensure an accessible and high quality university sector is through robust public funding. That is why OCUFA recommends a full tuition freeze in Ontario, with a corresponding increase in public funding to replace lost tuition fees.
 
Unfortunately, the Government of Ontario only wants to talk about one half of the equation. While they might be planning to restrict tuition fee increases, they are actually cutting university funding. About $40 million was taken from university budgets this year, with an additional $80 million in cuts planned for next year. In an environment of increasing enrolment demand, these cuts will invariably hurt students. If we’re serious about access, we need to freeze fees and boost public investment in out universities.
 
OCUFA President Constance Adamson will be meeting with Minister Duguid on March 18, 2013 to discuss our views on tuition fees, university funding, and the need to protect the collective bargaining rights of local faculty associations. We also hope to clarify the government’s plans for the coming months. As soon as new information becomes available, we will report it in OCUFA Report and on the OCUFA website.

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