In this time of increased awareness about funding, some points from my article “More Student Funding Needed” require elaboration. The 2000 Task Force on Graduate Student Funding recognized that OISE graduate students are eligible to receive the minimum funding packages; however, it was also recognized that it would take longer to implement at OISE than other faculties because of the inherited funding problem. Various student groups, including the GSU, worked with the university administration to accelerate the implementation period. Now many OISE doctoral stream students have improved funding and the recent announcement that the university expects that all OISE doctoral stream students will be receiving the minimum funding package by September 2003 is a major achievement for all graduate students concerned with the implementation strategy.
For U of T undergrads, the proposed needs-based funding scheme can be seen as an improved and progressive step, but the lack of implementation details is alarming.
We should all be concerned that needs-based funding models can actually increase the marginalization and the demonization of the poor. Any needs-based funding model must account for any adverse effects on its recipients—the devil is in the details.
The need for increased student funding is directly related to the well-documented growing income gap between the rich and poor. Tax breaks to the wealthy have reduced governments’ ability to fund universities, who in turn charge higher fees. Statistics Canada reports a decline in the number of university students from middle and low-income families.
We know the wealthy have increased their ability to access higher education and the “poor” must continue to prove their need. We are experiencing an exercise in social engineering.