This election, every political party is making promises about postsecondary education that will affect academic staff, students, and their families. Let’s look at what they’re proposing. Not surprisingly, tuition fees are a big issue. The Liberals are promising a 30 per cent tuition fee reduction for university undergraduate and college students from low- and middle-income families. The reduction will not apply to graduate and professional programs, so will benefit about 86 per cent of university undergraduate and college students. It will be achieved by a tuition grant, not a fee cut. The policy will reduce costs for students but will not remove revenue from the university system. However, fees will still be allowed to increase by an average of five per cent per year.
The PC’s will also make student loans more accessible to middle-class students and have promised to eliminate the Trillium Scholarship program for international PhD students at Ontario universities, created last year by the McGuinty Government.
The NDP are proposing to freeze tuition at current rates and eliminate the interest on student loans for four years. While this move will help control the costs of higher education and ease the burden of repaying student loans, the NDP plan does not replace all of the lost tuition revenue in university budgets. The NDP proposal would only provide compensatory funding of 2.5 per cent per year, well below the 5.0 per cent revenue increase currently allowed under the existing tuition fee policy.
The Liberals and Tories are both promising to fund 60,000 new student spaces. But no party has pledged to actually increase the actual amount of per-student funding universities receive. This means our institutions won’t be able to protect and enhance quality. New student spaces are great, but we need to make sure every new student receives a quality education.
OCUFA is worried about the Liberal proposal to construct three new satellite campuses. Awarding of these new campuses will involve an application process, and the government would look favourably on applications that emphasize partnership, are job-focused and leverage more credit transfer and online delivery. These requirements may negatively affect educational quality, conditions of work for faculty and librarians, and the student experience. Recent experience with satellite campuses – in particular, those developed with partner colleges – suggests they struggle with learning resource issues and tend to marginalize faculty and students from academic planning. We’re also very concerned with the Tory approach to labour issues. The PCs have signaled their intent to reduce salary, pensions, and benefits for broader-public-sector employees. They will place new legislative restrictions on arbitrators to award compensation increases. They also promise to introduce “paycheque protection”, which would place restrictions on how unions allocate funds for advocacy.
For a more detailed analysis of the platforms, download our comparison paper.