OCUFA: Reckless government announcement threatens education quality and students’ rights

The following statement was issued on January 17, 2019 by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), in response to changes to post-secondary funding announced by the Ontario government. Read the original post here.

TORONTO – Without increased public funding for Ontario’s universities and colleges, the Progressive Conservative Government’s announced tuition fee reduction is nothing more than an ill-conceived political gimmick designed to distract Ontarians from damaging cuts to the province’s already under-funded postsecondary education system. OCUFA has long advocated for tuition fee reductions but not in the absence of increased core funding and sound student financial aid policy.

OCUFA is concerned that the fee reduction, OSAP cuts, and changes to ancillary fees were announced without consulting any stakeholders at the province’s universities or colleges. This demonstrates a government pursuing a political agenda, not one interested in good public policy or helping students.

The announced OSAP cuts and changes to eligibility criteria mean it will be harder for many students to access postsecondary education. While faculty are reassured that the Minister’s remarks signaled the government’s commitment to not cutting core operating grants for postsecondary institutions, the announced changes mean that universities and colleges will struggle with less funding and students will be burdened with less financial assistance, more expensive loans, and higher debt.

“These reckless changes will shrink university budgets, increase class sizes, encourage further tuition fee hikes for international students, and threaten both the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education in Ontario,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “We should be accelerating investment in postsecondary education in Ontario. Instead, this government has slammed on the brakes and put the car in reverse.”

The government’s unnecessary and anti-democratic decision to make many ancillary fees voluntary undermines students’ rights on campus and increases administrative costs and red tape for universities. Many of the fees the government has identified as non-essential were introduced by students through democratic votes. Students’ unions in particular are democratically elected, not-for-profit organizations founded by and for students. This is an attack on the ability of students’ unions to represent and support their members.

“Students’ unions provide numerous crucial services and support for students on campus, and, through their advocacy work, they play an important role holding universities and governments accountable for decisions about issues including tuition fees and student financial assistance.” said Phillips. “It is no coincidence that this government is cutting support for students’ unions at the same time they are cutting OSAP. Ironically, this appears to be another attempt to stifle political debate, dissent, and speech on campus.”

Ontario’s universities are vital institutions that produce amazing graduates and research. But maintaining this level of excellence will require that the government actually sit down and talk to students, faculty, staff, and administrators, instead of continuing to make uninformed decisions in secret, behind closed doors.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit OCUFA’s website.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca