TORONTO— The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations has launched a campaign urging the Ontario Government to bring in a Budget on March 26 that will invest more in Ontario universities.
“Our recent polling shows that Ontarians, especially parents with children in high school, are concerned the economic crisis will mean they won’t be able to afford university for their kids, “ said OCUFA’s president, Professor Brian E. Brown. Brown was citing a poll OCUFA released last Friday.
“Most people know it takes a university education to get a good job in the new economy, so parents are worried their children may not have that opportunity,” he said.
OCUFA is using on-line advocacy as one element in its campaign. Visitors to the web site — www.quality-matters.ca — can send a message directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty about the need for a high quality university system in Ontario.
“Ontario’s per capita funding of universities is the third lowest in Canada,” explained Brown, “while its per student funding is 35 per cent less than in the 1970s.”
“As a result, tuition costs have doubled in the last two decades. This is troubling enough in good times, but in bad times it could rule university out for many young people.”
“Ontario cannot return to economic strength without a well-educated workforce,” he said. “And in a recession, it just makes good sense for the otherwise unemployed to attend school and be trained for the new economy.”
“High tuition is a barrier to this,” he said. “The government has to return to funding universities adequately so that students don’t have to bear so much of the cost.”
Moreover, Brown warned, chronic provincial under-funding threatens the quality of university education in Ontario.
Ontario’s student-faculty ratio, a key indicator of quality, has soared in the last decade, from 18 students per professor in 1990 to 26 students per professor today, meaning less time with professors, larger classes, and fewer course offerings. “We are seeing hiring freezes, so overcrowding in classrooms will get worse and students will have even less contact time with their professors,” he said.
To ensure a quality education for our students, OCUFA is urging the Government to raise Ontario’s investment in its universities to the national average, meaning a further $1 billion in provincial government support.