It’s no secret that colleges and universities urgently need more funding.

As the union representing 45,000 staff and faculty in all 24 of Ontario’s colleges and 16 universities and other postsecondary institutions, we have been sounding the alarm for years.

Our members have been living and working with the consequences of three decades of defunding by government. They include:

  • Increased class sizes
  • Crucial programs, services and supports starved of funds or eliminated
  • A piecemeal approach to higher education that does not meet the needs of students or communities.
  • A shift to online learning without adequate supports
  • The massive growth of a lower-paid, insecure workforce of staff and faculty
  • Workload levels that are causing both total burnout and deteriorating mental health for faculty and staff.

Further, international students have been squeezed to the breaking point by a business model that depends on them to fund the system.

It is time for the Ford government to step up and undo years of damage.

A “blue ribbon” panel of business consultants and former university executives made its recommendations to the government on funding.

The panel recommended a one-time funding boost of 10% and a one-time tuition fee hike of 5%, with subsequent years’ funding and tuition increases linked to inflation.

The funding increase is not enough. And we don’t agree with shifting the cost burden to students. Postsecondary education is a public good that benefits our society and economy.

OPSEU/SEFPO sector leaders and President JP Hornick told the panel last spring that Ontario should raise per-student funding to the average level of other provinces. (Currently, Ontario lags far behind all other provinces in per-student funding.)

The funding should be tied to concrete measures that improve the student experience, including:

  • Improved workloads for faculty and staff, resulting in more resources and supports for students;
  • Fairness for precarious faculty and staff, resulting in a more stable workforce to help students.

As well, to limit the escalating growth in high-paying executive positions, colleges and universities should be required to follow strict financial transparency rules.

It is time for the Ford government to change course and properly fund public postsecondary education in Ontario.

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