Despite the difficult economy, the 2009 Ontario Budget gives university presidents the tools they need to ensure that students continue to receive the quality university education they need, according to Professor Brian E. Brown, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
“The sense of panic created by many university presidents over the past few months created unfortunate and completely unnecessary anxiety among student, faculty, librarians and staff,” Brown said.
The OCUFA president called on universities to reconsider their stated policy of eliminating courses of study, and increasing class sizes even beyond their already untenable levels. “The quality of education for university students would be compromised if these measures are implemented,” Brown said.
A number of initiatives giving universities the tools required to continue providing a quality education were included in the budget including:
$150 million of one-time money to ensure that all undergraduate and graduate students were fully funded in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
$780 million over two years in provincial contributions to cost-shared postsecondary education infrastructure funding. The university share of combined provincial and federal infrastructure stimulus amounts to $1.1 billion, two-thirds of the current deferred maintenance backlog.
Significant changes in pension solvency extensions which should reduce the pension difficulties faced by universities in the current financial crisis.
“The money is there,” Brown said. “University presidents should now do the right thing and commit to maintaining programs and hiring new faculty and librarians.”
One major disappointment for OCUFA in the budget was the failure to address the important issues of student debt and student aid. “This was a lost opportunity to ensure that financial barriers do not prevent qualified and interested young Ontarians from attending university,” said Brown.
OCUFA represents more than 15,000 university professors and academic librarians across Ontario. For more information on the organization and its activities, please visit http://www.quality-matters.ca.