The Government of Ontario is looking to make sweeping changes to post-secondary education, and they’re not interested in your opinion about it. They are considering reducing bachelor degrees to three years, putting 60 per cent of your courses online, introducing mandatory full-year learning, and standardized province-wide testing — just to name a few. And what’s worse, there are no plans in place to reduce the sky-high cost of education. Students in Ontario pay the highest tuition fees in the country, with a bill of over $7,000 this year. In fact, tuition fees will continue to rise at a rate of 5–23 per cent each year, despite the proposed changes to education, which will lead to a decline in quality. Effectively, post-secondary students will be charged more for less, and this should worry you.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities hopes to push these changes through quietly and with little-to-no consultation.
Make no mistake, the changes that are being proposed are not in the best interest of students. In fact, these changes create an approach to post-secondary education in which the government and universities make more money while providing a lesser service to students. In addition to the aforementioned changes, some noteworthy adaptations include “eliminating redundancies” (i.e. if York offers an excellent law school, why fund another at U of T?), an emphasis on corporate, market-driven education, (say goodbye to that philosophy degree), and allowing third-party organizations and companies access to free student labour through unpaid internships and compulsory co-op placements as part of our degree requirements.
The Ontario government is also looking to link per-student funding to “outcomes” by including standardized testing in curriculum and allocating more funding to programs with the highest graduation rates. (It’s like the high school literacy test — for university!)
In the embarrassingly poorly-written discussion paper “Strengthening Ontario’s Centers of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge” released late this summer by the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray, the government outlines a number of “improvements” to post-secondary education that are not aimed at improving quality, access, or student debt, but at further reducing public funding and responsibility for universities and colleges.
While the Ontario government stresses its “30% Tuition Grant” throughout the discussion paper, it continues to ignore the fact that this grant is not available to the majority of students who actually require financial assistance to complete their degrees. In fact, when the $430 million grant was introduced last year, only two out of nine of all students actually received it. This is even more troubling when we consider the fact that nine other scholarships and grants (which were more widely available) were cancelled in order to fund this grant. Essentially, the Ontario government is not only reducing public funding for post-secondary education and reducing the amount of grants available to students, it is pushing forward with a plan to diminish access and decrease the value of your education — at even more of a cost to you.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities hopes to push these changes through quietly and with little-to-no consultation. However, the UTSU wants to engage students in the consultation that the government of Ontario should be having. We are holding an Emergency Education Town Hall on Tuesday, September 25 at 4 pm in Med-Sci 2158 to discuss the proposal and to hear from U of T students about how the proposed changes will affect you. We encourage all students to come out to the Town Hall to express their concerns, suggest a better way forward for education, and learn more about what’s at stake.
Abigail Cudjoe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shaun Shepherd can be reached at email@example.com.