The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System


General inquiries regarding this document should be directed to: Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario 180 Bloor Street West, Suite 900 Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V6 Tel 416.925.3825 Fax 416.925.6774 Email Web Ce document est disponible en français

With more than 300,000 members at 37 students’ unions in all regions of the province, the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario is the voice of post-secondary students in Ontario. Founded in 1981, the Federation represents students at the college, undergraduate and graduate levels, including full and part-time students.
Algoma University Students’ Union Brock University Graduate Students’ Association Carleton University Students’ Association Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association Association étudiante de la Cité collégiale Student Association of George Brown College Glendon College Student Union University of Guelph Central Student Association University of Guelph Graduate Students’ Association Lakehead University Student Union Laurentian Association of Mature and Part-time Students Laurentian University Graduate Students’ Association Laurentian University Students’ General Association Laurentian Students’ Union at Barrie Association des étudiantes et étudiants francophones de l’Université Laurentienne McMaster University Graduate Students’ Association Nipissing University Student Union Ontario College of Art and Design Student Union Student Federation of the University of Ottawa Graduate Students’ Association des étudiant(e)s diplômé(e)s de l’Université d’Ottawa Queen’s University Society of Graduate and Professional Students Ryerson Students’ Union Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson Saint Paul University Students’ Association University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Students’ Union University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union University of Toronto Students’ Union University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students of the University of Toronto Trent University Central Student Association University of Western Ontario Society of Graduate Students Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association University of Windsor Students’ Alliance University of Windsor Graduate Students’ Society University of Windsor Organization of Part-time University Students York Federation of Students York University Graduate Students’ Association

Background...................................................................................................................................... 9
Context ....................................................................................................................................................9 Discussion Paper .................................................................................................................................10 Roundtable Discussions ....................................................................................................................12 Students’ Vision ....................................................................................................................................13 Post-Secondary Education as a Public & Social Good ..........................................................17

Public Benefit ................................................................................................................................. 17 Affordability .................................................................................................................................... 21

Tuition Fees ............................................................................................................................................21 Student Debt ..........................................................................................................................................26 Disproportionate Impact on Marginalized Communities ...................................................27 What is the Purpose & Function of Colleges & Universities? .............................................31 The Link Between Teaching & Research ....................................................................................32 The Student-Faculty Ratio ...............................................................................................................34 Online Learning ..................................................................................................................................34 Student Engagement & Experiential Learning .......................................................................37 Creating Accessible Post-Secondary Education ......................................................................41 Students with Disabilities .................................................................................................................41 Students & Mental Health ...............................................................................................................42 French Language Education ...........................................................................................................44 Regional Accessibility ........................................................................................................................46 Flexibility for Students ......................................................................................................................47 Building Democratic & Accountable Colleges & Universities ............................................51 Right to Organize Legislation for Students’ Unions ...............................................................54 Oversight by the Ontario Ombudsman .......................................................................................55 Capping University & College Salaries ......................................................................................55 Accountable Research on Post-Secondary Education ...........................................................56 Fighting for Our Vision ....................................................................................................................59

Quality ............................................................................................................................................... 31

Accessibility ..................................................................................................................................... 41

Accountability ................................................................................................................................. 51

Conclusion ....................................................................................................................................... 59


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

AFFORDABILITY • Mandate universities to introduce post-residency fees for graduate students. • Establish a tuition fee framework that progressively reduces tuition fees for all college and university students to 2005 levels, including re-allocating money currently spent on the Ontario Tuition grant and provincial tax credits. • Prohibit the institutional practice of charging students deferral fees, interest or deposits for tuition fee payments. • Prohibit the institutional practice of implementing flat tuition fees based on course load or year of study. • Eliminate interest on Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans. • Extend OSAP eligibility to part-time students. • Increase the number of Ontario Graduate Scholarships. • Work with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to allow Ontario Works recipients to receive OSAP assistance and for Ontario Disability Support Program recipients to receive OSAP assistance without a clawback in financial support. • Expand grants for non-Status Aboriginal students and Métis students. QUALITY • Establish a long-term funding plan that increases per-student funding to the national average. • Improve the student-faculty ratio by hiring more tenure-track faculty and reversing the trend of increasingly relying on sessional faculty. • Ensure the Ontario Online Institute remains an information portal for online courses in the province – not a new, degree-granting institution. • Reinstate provincial funding for the Ontario Work Study Program.

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• Prohibit the institutional practice of charging placement fees for co-op or internship placements. • Prohibit institutions from requiring unpaid work placements in programs of study. ACCESSIBILITY • Address the shortfall in deferred maintenance and ensure that buildings are sustainable and accessible for students. • Reinstate the funding for the Fellowship for Study in French and expand provincial funding for French-language education. • Provide enhanced funding to northern and rural institutions in order to provide and establish a comprehensive range of programs for these communities. • Continue to establish the provincial credit transfer system that will allow students to move within the college and university systems without duplicating credits. DEMOCRATIC AND ACCOUNTABLE INSTITUTIONS • Mandate universities and colleges to undertake governance changes that would increase student representation on decision-making bodies. • Reintroduce legislation that would provide legal protection for students’ unions. • Extend the purview of the Ontario Ombudsman to include university oversight. • Cap university sector salaries at $250,000 and college sector salaries at $200,000. • Eliminate the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and redirect funding toward graduate research.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Since the beginning of the global economic recession, we have heard from governments around the world that they have to make difficult decisions to respond to the global crisis. The Government of Ontario has been no different, with Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan frequently citing the need to slash the deficit by implementing “restraint measures.” The provincial government’s austerity agenda led to the creation of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services in 2011, chaired by former bank executive Don Drummond. Unfortunately, the Commission ignored revenue shortfalls in the province, did not consider increasing revenue and did not look for ways to reasonably sustain quality public services. Instead, the closed-door investigation simply tackled the spending side of Ontario’s balance sheet and focused entirely on how to downsize public services – including postsecondary education – in Ontario. The impact of the Drummond Report on the 2012 Ontario Budget was stark, leaving Ontarians who rely on public services worried about the quality and availability of these services in the future. Students were disappointed to see the short-term projections for the post-secondary sector, including cuts to institutional operating grants and capital funding. The budget did allocate more funding to the problematic Ontario Tuition Grant, but at the expense of eliminating nine grant, scholarship and bursary programs. For every new $1.00 invested into the government’s new grant scheme for 2012-13, $1.20 of student aid would be clawed back through the cuts to the nine programs and tuition fee increases. The nature of the program changes also did little to help students with larger need, including those from lowerincome backgrounds, part-time students and mature students.

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Discussion Paper
Shortly after the 2012 Budget was passed, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities released Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge. Minister of Training Colleges and Universities Glen Murray made it clear that this discussion paper would be used to guide and facilitate roundtable sessions that were being held across the province. Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge is loosely based on a confidential discussion paper that was leaked in February 2012 called 3 x 3: Revolutionizing Ontario’s Post Secondary Education System for the 21st Century. The leaked document, which was co-authored by Minister Murray, outlines a very concerning vision for the sector that explicitly pushes for three-year undergraduate degrees, three full terms per year and three out of five courses online. These proposed strategies to revolutionize the sector are inspired by examples from other jurisdictions – whether or not these strategies have actually benefited students – and are based on several, often false, assumptions about Ontario’s post-secondary education system, student experiences and student needs. Despite using softer and more generalized language, Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge carries many of the same assumptions that are contained in the leaked document. The discussion paper describes the government’s overall goal of “identify[ing] ways to

improve productivity through innovation” in the post-secondary education system. The words ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’ run heavily throughout the document but students are still left to ask – how are we defining ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’? Does this mean that students, faculty and institutions are expected to simply do more with less? Are we changing things for the sake of change? Are we changing things to benefit students or other interested parties? The discussion paper asserts that the reconfiguration of the system is not only being brought on by the changing economy and labour market demands, but by the broader public’s expectation for “concrete results from the investment of scarce public resources.” To be clear, the broader public – including students and their families – wants public money to be used wisely. Funding education has always been considered one of the best investments for the future of the province. It should not be a foregone conclusion that public resources are scarce, either. This discourse reinforces Don Drummond’s claim that the province has a spending problem and omits all of the reasonable ways the province could generate revenue like reversing previous cuts to corporate tax rates and building on the newly created top income tax bracket. The discussion paper maintains that costs in the post-secondary education sector have grown at a rate above inflation and that the government intends to contain spending to ensure financial sustainability.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System


Provincial government transfers to colleges and universities per full-time equivalent student


$ 13,863

$ 12,756 $ 25,459 $ 13,572 $ 10,222 $ 15,916

$ 13,882 $ 13,481 $ 14,208

$ 15,771

$ 22,520

(Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2011)

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It goes further by claiming that controlling detached from the issue of affordability for compensation costs – particularly with students and families. regard to faculty and academic staff – is the key to financial sustainability. Roundtable Discussions The document narrows in on faculty The Canadian Federation of Studentscompensation as the main driver of the Ontario was invited to participate in the rising costs of post-secondary education, series of roundtable discussions hosted by however, there is no clear evidence that this the Ministry of Training, Colleges and is actually true. The Ministry’s assertions Universities over the summer of 2012. on faculty salaries align more with the Students continue to stress the importance government’s interest in implementing a of the Ministry receiving meaningful input wage freeze for the broader public sector from the people who are most affected than the reality on campuses. Data from by policy changes – students colleges and universities themselves. Students from “There’s a one size show that the proportion of campuses across the province fits all mentality institutional operating expenses have expressed the concern throughout this dedicated to faculty salaries has that the process has lacked [discussion] paper” remained unchanged over the meaningful participation last 15 years.1 – University of from students. Despite Toronto Student In the last decade, 200,000 having provincial student new students entered the postorganizations at the table, local secondary education system, representing students’ unions or associations were not a 40 per cent increase in enrolment.2 Yet, invited to the original seven roundtable the rapid climb in enrolment and the basic discussions, even if they were being hosted resources required to support this shift are at their campus. In addition, local faculty not even mentioned in the document as or staff representatives were not invited to cost drivers. The concerns over the financial participate in these discussions. sustainability of the sector should focus on As a result, the roundtable discussions the lack of an adequate growth strategy over were disproportionately comprised of the last decade. Maintaining a high-quality senior administrators from colleges and education system cannot be achieved universities. Representatives from individual by simply doing “more with less.” Any post-secondary institutions were invited discussion about funding also cannot be and were present at the regional roundtable sessions, along with representatives 1 Council of Finance Officers & Colleges Ontario. 2012. from Colleges Ontario and the Council of Ontario Universities. The voices of 2 2012 Ontario Budget. Government of Ontario.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

students, faculty and staff were limited, and expectedly, the few student, faculty and staff representatives present were alienated at the sessions. The Ministry did respond to students’ concerns about the lack of representation by creating a students-only consultation in September. However, this session was organized with short notice for students’ representatives, took place during the busy orientation period at the beginning of the academic year and was inaccessible for some since participants had to cover their own travel and accommodation costs.

The most concerning aspect of the process has been the deliberate omission and separation of the issues around affordability and accessibility for students. The Ministry indicated that a separate forum for stakeholders would be created as a new tuition fee framework is developed. However, transformational policy changes cannot be treated separately from tuition fees, student debt and funding. While the policy discussions have been contextualized around containing costs within the system, there has been no discussion about how to reduce the cost for students and The underlying problem their families who are trying “Education should be with the consultation to get through the system. process was evident student-driven: this Students’ attempts to draw when the discussion includes the ability for the link between affordability paper was released. students to make their and the conversations around The discussion paper own decisions about their innovation and productivity at set the agenda for the education.” the roundtable sessions were roundtables and clearly largely ignored and deemed – Ryerson University outlines the intentions of irrelevant to the discussion. Student the Ministry with regard Because the high cost of postto the direction that the secondary education is not government should be taking to reform being properly addressed within the larger the system. The roundtables did not leave conversation about sector transformation, space for the larger discussions about why students will continue to face significant the system needed to be reformed, how financial barriers to a college or university the system was not being ‘productive’ or education. ‘innovative’, how the ‘box’ that we needed to think outside of was being conceptualized or why the quality of the post-secondary education system was declining. The policy choices in the discussion paper were presented as the only available options and the objective of the roundtables was for stakeholders to provide feedback on how best to implement them.

Students’ Vision
The discussion paper and resulting roundtable consultations gave a clear direction for how the government wants to transform post-secondary education in Ontario. Students are presenting their own vision for how to ensure that post-secondary Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


education becomes affordable and accessible for everyone who chooses to pursue it, that students are able to receive a high quality education and that colleges and universities are democratic and accountable institutions. As the school year began, students across the province organized their own public town halls to ensure space was created for ordinary students to express their concerns with the discussion paper and, more importantly, voice their vision for post-secondary education in the province. Town halls were organized in every major region across Ontario and included events at Algoma University, Carleton University, George Brown College, Laurentian University (Sudbury and Barrie campuses), Lakehead University, McMaster University, Ontario of College Art and Design University, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, Trent University, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto (Mississauga, Scarborough and St George Campuses), University of Western Ontario, University of Windsor and York University. Students shared their personal stories and highlighted a range of issues including classroom experiences, student-teacher ratios, diminishing access to education through tuition and ancillary fees, cost of books and equipment, equity issues, inclusive campus spaces and lack of adequate bursaries and grants. The stories and feedback from the town halls have helped shape this submission.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Post-Secondary Education as a Public & Social Good
As a society, we have decided that there are certain costs that need to be born collectively and not by individuals. Public services like health care and education are seen as having a benefit not only to the individuals who access these services, but also to our society as a whole. Students believe that college and university education should be a right for all people who want it, and not a privilege reserved for those who can afford the high user (tuition) fees. Unfortunately, because of government policies allowing tuition fees to increase dramatically over the past two decades, college and university is increasingly becoming reserved for the rich, while low- and middle-income families are either shut out completely or take on massive amounts of debt just to get a foot in the door. These policy decisions are out of step with what Ontarians want. Ontarians know the importance of college and university education and are attending in record numbers, with a 40 per cent increase in enrollment in the past 10 years. Students and their families know that getting a college or university education is essential to getting a job, but also recognize the value of education as important to engaging in our communities and developing as individuals.

Proponents of privatizing education often exalt the individual a post-secondary benefits of a college or university education, while barely education, what else mentioning and even ignoring the significant societal benefits of a are they left to do?” – more educated population. These benefits extend into all areas of McMaster University our social fabric including the economy, health, civic engagement Student and community development. For every dollar invested into colleges and universities in Canada, there is $3.20 in public return.1 With 70 per cent of jobs now requiring some form of post-secondary education,
1 Education at a Glance 2011. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2011.

“If people can’t get

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priorities of our institutions are dictated ensuring that all Ontarians have access to by what they can get people to pay for. colleges and universities is key to helping This takes many forms including predatory to ensure people can get stable and wellrecruitment of international students paid employment. People with more who pay higher tuition fees, research education tend to have higher incomes, be agendas that are focused healthier, access public services “Privatization is an more in disciplines where like income assistance less issue. The government there is a clear opportunity frequently and are less likely to go to jail. These benefits add up should make an effort to for commercialization such in dollars and cents, but more buy back the colleges” as engineering, the cutting of programs such as fine arts importantly, in the well-being of – George Brown College that are resource intensive but our communities. Student produce graduates who make Unfortunately, because of lower incomes, and building government underfunding, our colleges new facilities over addressing deferred and universities are increasingly reliant maintenance costs. Instead, students believe on private funds. Private funding takes in a system where college and university many forms including tuition fees, the stakeholders and the public can determine outsourcing of services such as food what our institutions should be prioritizing. provision, private donations from individuals and corporations, endowment funds and corporate funding for research. In 1993, 25 per cent of college funding and 30 per cent of university funding came from government funding. Today, the portion has grown to above 50 per cent.2 In Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge, universities are referred to not as public institutions but as “publicly assisted,” blurring the government’s role in a policy of divesting from public colleges and universities over the past 20 years. Privatization of colleges and universities threatens the role post-secondary education plays in our society. In a private system, the
2 Colleges Ontario & Council of Financial Officers. 2012.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Tuition fees and government funding as a percentage of college and university operating revenue

Colleges in 1993

Universities in 1993



Colleges Today

Universities Today

< 50% PUBLIC

< 50% PUBLIC

(Colleges Ontario, Council of Ontario Universities)

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Tuition Fees
The most significant issue facing students and their families today is whether or not they can afford to go to a college or university. The upfront cost of tuition fees is simply the largest barrier to accessing a post-secondary education. Generally, public funding for social services like health care and elementary and secondary school allows everyone in Ontario adequate access to these programs, regardless of their socio-economic background. These programs are funded through tax revenue, including revenue generated by the province’s progressive income tax system. Tuition fees can be considered a regressive flat tax for education since all students and their families – irrespective of income – must pay the same amount. Studies have shown that the distribution of college and university students and the distribution of family income demonstrate that subsidizing the cost of post-secondary education through government revenue results in an income transfer from higher“Because of high tuition fees income families to lower-income families.1 By increasing tuition fees and reducing public funding, the net transfer from higherwe could be missing the biggest income families to lower-income families would be reduced. ideas, brightest minds and

the undiscovered creativity Tuition fees in Ontario for undergraduate students were less than of others who simply haven’t $2,000 per year in 1990, including those in professional programs 2 made it into the system” like law or medical school. Today, undergraduate students are paying an average of $7,180 in tuition fees, while those who want – George Brown College to attend professional programs like law or medical school have to Student pay upwards of $25,000 per year.3 Ontario students pay the most for their education compared to students in other provinces in Canada. Undergraduate students in Ontario pay 29 per cent more compared to the Canadian average, while graduate students pay 41 per cent more. Ontario graduate students pay an average of over $8,000 in tuition fees per year every year they are registered, while the majority of graduate students outside of Ontario pay reduced fees during research and thesis-writing
1 Hugh Mackenzie. The Tuition Trap. Hugh Mackenzie & Associates. 2005. 2 Statistics Canada. Government of Canada. 2012. 3 Statistics Canada. University Tuition Fees, 2012/2013. Government of Canada. 2012.

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Newfoundland and Labrador has responded to students’ call for affordable education and recognized the benefits of making college and university affordable for families to the province’s economy. The government froze tuition fees between 1999-2002, reduced fees by 25 per cent back to 1996-97 levels between 2002-2005 and has kept fees frozen since 2005. Undergraduate and graduate Some colleges and universities have tried students pay less than $2,700 per year, while to address underfunding by increasing the paying no interest on provincial student financial burden on students loans and having access to through ancillary fees or “I wanted to take business, a grants programs that is other fee mechanisms. For but I’m in arts because I more generous than what example, some institutions couldn’t afford the degree for exists in Ontario.4 Not only require that fall and winter business students.” do students in the province fees be paid in September. have greater access to a post– University of Toronto Students who need to pay secondary education, but their winter fees in January Scarborough Campus students from throughout because that is when student Student the Maritimes have flocked loan money is released or to Newfoundland and for other financial reasons are then charged Labrador to pursue their studies. Between additional fees. Similarly, many universities 1997 to 2009, the number of students from have implemented flat fees, a form of tuition Prince Edward Island attending Memorial fees where instead of charging per course, University increased by 418 per cent. The the institution charges the same amount for number of students from New Brunswick any course load over a certain percentage increased by 800 per cent, while those of full-time. At University of Toronto, for migrating from Nova Scotia increased by example, students in arts and social sciences 1,079 per cent. 5 pay the same whether they are taking three University students in Québec pay courses or five. These fee schemes are often almost the same tuition fees as those used by universities and colleges to raise additional revenue from students. stages of their degrees. On top of all this, international students pay twice as much as domestic students for the same education. The socio-economic implications for such an unaffordable post-secondary education system are damaging to a province that is still struggling to recover from the global economic recession. Other jurisdictions in Canada and throughout the world have managed to make access to post-secondary education a priority, while operating in the same global economic environment. The government of
4 Statistics Canada. University Tuition Fees, 2012/2013. Government of Canada. 2012. 5 Kirby, Greene, Bourgeois and Sharpe. Matriculating Eastward: Maritime Student Migration to Newfoundland and Labrador. Memorial University. 2011.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Tuition fees versus inflation in the last 25 years
Undergraduate - Actual Undergraduate - By Inflation

College - Actual College - By Inflation


(Colleges Ontario, 2012; Statistics Canada, 2011; Bank of Canada, 2011)


Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


in Newfoundland and Labrador, while CÉGEP students pay nominal fees. Governments in Québec have historically responded to students’ demand to keep post-secondary education affordable, which is why tuition fees remain below $3,000 for undergraduate and graduate students and the province’s system of needs-based grants remains. Québec’s tuition fees have been consistently lower than the rest of the country over the last three decades. The previous Liberal government’s multiyear plan to increase tuition fees by 75 per cent not only proved to be unacceptable for students who fought the hike with the longest and largest student strike in Canadian history, but also to the general population who voted the Liberal Party out of power. The majority of graduate students in outside of Ontario have access to reduced fees during the period of research and thesiswriting. The Ministry has identified timely completion in graduate programs as an issue, but has not addressed the impact of paying full graduate tuition fees for every year a student is enrolled. High fees result in graduate students taking on addional employment, limiting the time they can commit to their studies. Students have long called for reduced fees for graduates after they have completed course work, which would reduce the financial burden on graduate students and encourage timely completion.

RECOMMENDATIONS • Mandate universities to introduce postresidency fees for graduate students. Ontario risks falling behind the other provinces in Canada by not making access to post-secondary education a priority. Students outside of Ontario are paying less upfront and accumulating less debt, allowing them to better participate in their local economies. If Ontario wants to compete on the world stage, it also needs to recognize how other countries are educating their citizens. Many countries have public post-secondary education systems where students pay no or nominal fees, such as Argentina, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Spain, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago. Ontarians understand how the high upfront cost of education affects their families. Year after year, polls have shown that 9 out of 10 Ontarians support a tuition fee freeze or reduction, with the majority of people are in support of generating more tax revenue in order to invest in post-secondary education. The most progressive and effective way to increase access to post-secondary education would be to reduce tuition fees and develop a long-term framework that aims to eliminate the upfront cost of college and university in Ontario.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

RECOMMENDATIONS • Establish a tuition fee framework that progressively reduces tuition fees for all college and university students to 2005 levels, including re-allocating money currently spent on the Ontario Tuition grant and provincial tax credits.

inevitable outcome of taking on more debt.

The majority of students in college and university are forced to take on debt to pay for their education. Collectively, students owe the Government of Ontario $2.6 billion through their Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans and • Prohibit the institutional practice billions more to the federal government.6 In of charging students addition to government deferral fees, interest or “Tuition fees are increasing, loans, students are deposits for tuition fee student debt is getting worse forced to take on debt payments. and students can’t afford it. through bank lines of • Prohibit the Students make it work but credit, family loans institutional practice are at a tipping point. Many and credit cards. More of implementing flat parents are now putting students rely on food banks tuition fees based on on campus because they can’t away less money for course load or year of retirement because they study. afford food.” are helping their children – Carleton University Student pay for their education. Student Debt Undergraduate students who rely on both public and private As tuition fees continue to rise in Ontario, sources of debt to finance their education policy makers, educational policy carry an average of $37,000 in student entrepreneurs and interest groups continue debt after graduation.7 Graduate students to assert that students are more than able or students looking to obtain additional to pursue a college or university education diploma or degree credentials have to carry through greater access to student loans. their previous debts while borrowing more This policy approach diverts the emphasis money for their current studies. Students away from the upfront cost of education, allowing institutions to fund a greater portion of their operating budgets through 6 Ministry of Finance. Consolidated Financial Statements, 2011-2012. Government of Ontario. tuition fees and ignoring the impact of 2012. requiring students to bear the full cost of 7 Justin Bayard and Edith Greenlee. Graduating their education. With stagnating wages and in Canada: Profile, Labour Market Outcomes household debt at record levels, students and Student Debt of the Class of 2005. Culture, and their families simply cannot afford Tourism and the Centre for Educational Statistics, the increasing cost of education and the Government of Canada. 2009.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario



Outstanding student debt owed to the Ontario government

$2.638 BILLION

$2.260 BILLION

$1.147 BILLION

(Ontario Ministry of Finance Consolidated Financial Statements, 2005-2011)


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

pursuing professional degrees like law or medicine often graduate with over $100,000 in debt, which severely limits their career choices within their field. If Ontario is looking to position itself well in the new economy, it must address the student debt crisis. New graduates are having more difficulty finding stable employment than ever before and the weight of a five-figure student debt is intensifying the problem. Saddling Ontario’s students with such debt actually stifles the economy since their purchasing power is greatly diminished. New graduates are now less likely to buy cars, take out a mortgage on a home, start a family, start a new business or pursue more education. Instead, they must contend with paying off their student debt while trying to enter the shrinking labour market. Indebting a generation of people with large student debt will limit Ontario’s ability to climb out of the recession and will surely damage the long-term economic health of the province. RECOMMENDATIONS • Eliminate interest on OSAP loans. • Extend OSAP eligibility to part-time students. • Increase the number of Ontario Graduate Scholarships.

Disproportionate Impact on Marginalized Communities
Post-secondary education is commonly seen as the path to higher income earnings and socio-economic mobility for marginalized members of society. This idea builds on a vision that college and university education is accessible to anyone with the ability and desire to learn, and not simply the means to afford the lofty price tag. Unfortunately, a post-secondary education system that forces students and their families to pay a high upfront cost – with financial implications if they cannot fully do so – disproportionately penalizes those who have less financial means. High tuition fees constitute a larger barrier for marginalized communities – including but not limited to Aboriginal, racialized and immigrant people, people living with disabilities and women – and contribute to systemic discrimination within society. RECOMMENDATION • Work with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to allow Ontario Works recipients to receive OSAP assistance and for Ontario Disability Support Program recipients to receive OSAP assistance without a clawback in financial support. Despite the ideal of an equitable and multicultural society, the economic reality faced by marginalized communities in Ontario and the rest of the country tells

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a story of socio-economic exclusion. The 2006 Canada Census showed that 44 per cent of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 completed some form of post-secondary education, compared to 61 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.8 The proportion of Aboriginal children living in low-income households is double that of non-Aboriginal children, while the average income for the Aboriginal population is 33 per cent or $12,000 lower than the nonAboriginal population.9 RECOMMENDATION • Expand grants for non-Status Aboriginal students and Métis students. On average, racialized people are two to four times more likely to fall below the poverty line and subsequently, are more likely to have related problems like poor health, lower education and few job opportunities compared to the rest of the population.10 Racialized people have lower participation rates in the labour market, while also earning a median after-tax income that is 13 per cent less than non-racialized people. 11 The majority of new immigrants
8 Statistics Canada. Educational Portrait of Canada, 2006 Census. Government of Canada. 2008. 9 Chantel Collin and Hillary Jensen. A Statistical Profile of Poverty in Canada. Government of Canada. 2009. 10 Colour of Poverty Campaign. 2007. 11 Grace-Edward Galabuzi and Cheryl Teelucksingh. Working Precariously: The impact of race and immigrants status on employment opportunities and

are racialized, but lower income rates are not attributed simply to recent settlement. It takes about 20 years for someone who immigrated to make as much as someone born in Canada of the same sex, age and education level. 12 In recent years, the participation of women in post-secondary education has increased more rapidly than men, but the proportion of men with some form of post-secondary education is still higher. This is, in part, because having a post-secondary credential is one of the only ways women can access quality jobs. However, men are still more likely to be employed full-time and to earn more than women. According to the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario, the average income of women with a post-secondary certificate or diploma is still less than the average earnings of a male worker with a high school diploma. In Ontario, for every $1.00 earned by a full-time male worker, a full-time female worker earns 72 cents.13 Progressive economists have identified time and again, that any flat tax or user fee for services disproportionately affects people with lower incomes. The provincial government continues to ignore the regressive nature of tuition fees, instead opting to focus on a confusing and inconsistent patchwork of financial
outcomes in Canada. Centre for Social Justice and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. 2005. 12 Colour of Poverty Campaign. 2007. 13 The Gender Wage Gap. Pay Equity Commission of Ontario. 2012.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

assistance programs through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Over half of the Ontario students rely on OSAP, with students having the ability to accrue almost $30,000 in student loan debt after a four-year degree. Marginalized communities are less likely to afford high tuition fees because of the structural disparities in wealth and income. As a result, they are more likely to rely on student loans and other sources of debt to pay for post-secondary education. If a student with the maximum OSAP loan takes the maximum time – 14.5 years – to pay off their loan, they will pay an additional 50 per cent on top of the principle loan amount through accrued interest.14 Students are also paying interest on debts owed through lines of credit and credit cards to pay for their educational expenses. Students from marginalized families are more likely to pay more for their education compared to their wealthier counterparts simply because they cannot afford to pay the high upfront cost. Downloading the cost of post-secondary education from the public to individual students undermines the role that education plays in achieving socio-economic equity and instead, exacerbates existing inequities.

14 Ontario Student Assistance Program. Repayment Calculator. Government of Ontario. 2012.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

What is the Purpose & Function of Colleges & Universities?
The discussion paper and roundtable process set the agenda for sector transformation, but left little room for a larger question – what are colleges and universities for? Traditionally, postsecondary institutions have been the places to generate new knowledge, facilitate the pursuit of knowledge, develop critical members of society, promote scholarly work and conduct basic and curiosity-driven research. The government is steering in a direction away from our postsecondary institutions being the central places of higher learning, but instead toward colleges and universities being industry training grounds and commercialization hubs. Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge places a heavy emphasis on “entrepreneurial learning” and the “entrepreneurship capacity” of new graduates, while cheering on the business incubators that currently exist in Ontario post-secondary institutions. Promoting the creation of business incubators or incentivizing entrepreneurial education in the province’s public colleges and universities does not facilitate knowledge, innovation or creativity. Instead, the drive to commercialize college and university knowledge limits academic freedom and public ownership of research, while discouraging private sector innovation. By putting resources into business incubators and private sector partnerships, the government is subsidizing private sector research through the post-secondary education system and discouraging private sector investment in its own research infrastructure. Canada has ranked very low on indexes that measure innovation, especially with regard to its scientific research institutions and private sector spending on research and development.1 Colleges and universities are increasingly being used to foster commercialization and serve the market, rather than educating people to be critical and productive members of society.
1 Klaus Schwab. The Global Competitiveness Report, 2012-2013. World Economic Forum. 2012.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


The Link Between Teaching & Research

cheaper, precarious labour is the solution to containing costs in the system.

The working conditions of contract, One of the strengths of the post-secondary teaching-only instructors impacts the education system has been the intricate quality of education that students receive. link between scholarship and research. This An instructor may not be able to dedicate model builds on the idea that an expert in a the time to a student who requires extra particular field who has gained knowledge help or wants an academic mentor because through original research and experience they have to travel to another campus to is best suited to impart that knowledge teach a class, need to dedicate time to their to students. Universities in own research or have another Ontario have always built on “A researcher can say job. The opportunity for the strength of its researchers ‘this is how it happens’ continuous course development and as such, have been vs. ‘this is how it is limited if courses are taught structured to allow professors by different instructors and if happens in theory’.” to teach and engage in current those instructors are not able research. Over the last decade, – Lakehead University to engage in current, relevant Student however, this structure has research. fundamentally changed. It is now common for a significant Policy makers and institutional proportion of graduate classes to be taught administrators have pushed for a tiered by contract faculty who are not paid to stream of education where some professors engage in research or mentor graduate would only focus on teaching. The province students. Doctoral students are pushed to has seen a trend where institutions are complete their degrees faster. Yet, these increasingly relying on contract, teachingstudents have limited opportunities for only faculty who are compensated much them after graduating beyond landing less than tenured professors and are not a short-term contract position to teach paid to conduct research. Contract faculty at a university. PhD graduates are now often teach at multiple institutions and are leaving for academic opportunities in other faced with the additional challenges that provinces and countries. This brain drain come with commuting between different amounts to a lost investment in Ontario’s cities for work. Contract instructors lack post-secondary education system and job security, as their employment conditions diminishes the province’s research capacity. can easily change between semesters or academic years. From policy makers’ and RECOMMENDATION institutions’ perspective, the proliferation • Establish a long-term funding plan that of teaching-only faculty and reliance on increases per-student funding to the national average.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Number of full-time graduate students compared to the number of Ontario Graduate scholarships



(Common University Data Ontario, 2006-2011; Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 2011)

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


The Student-Faculty Ratio

The student-faculty ratio encompasses many aspects of the learning experience beyond Students understand the important role class size. It impacts the opportunities for that professors play in their education and students to get academic help from their recognize that the hiring and retention of professors outside of the classroom. A professors has an impact on the quality of professor is less likely to their education. Ontario “Students were forced to sit on mentor students if they have has the highest studentthe stairs in my large science to grade more assignments, faculty ratio in the provide help to more country, meaning students class because the class didn’t students or write more in the province are learning have enough room. Crowded letters of recommendation. classes make it harder to learn in larger classes and are At the graduate level, and participate.” less likely to interact with professors now have to their professors compared – Carleton University Student supervise more students in to their counterparts addition to their teaching in other provinces. and research commitments. Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, As a result, graduate students are not able to Innovation and Knowledge not only ignores receive the level of support or guidance that the problem of large class sizes, it deflects they need from their mentors. the issue and suggests that institutions can create savings by maintaining class sizes and RECOMMENDATION moving learning modules online. • Improve the student-faculty ratio by hiring more tenure-track faculty and It is well understood in the elementary reversing the trend of increasingly and secondary school system that class relying on sessional faculty. sizes matter because students need the face-to-face interaction with their teachers and fellow students. While college and Online Learning university students have more experience The solution to Ontario’s high student-toin the classroom than their younger peers, faculty ratio is to hire more faculty. Instead, the concept that learning is better in a policy makers’ opt to ignore the problem more interactive, intimate and inclusive and do little to address the underlying issues. environment is no different. Students who Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, sit in a lecture hall with 500 other students Innovation and Knowledge pushes an will undoubtedly have a different – and less agenda to expand and rely more heavily on fulfilling – experience than those who are online modes of learning, with the proposal able to interact with their professors and to create a new, degree-granting, online classmates in a classroom.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

The ratio of full-time faculty to full-time student












(Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, 2009)

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


institution in Ontario. Students oppose the creation of such an online institution and are critical of the government’s approach to online learning.

The push for online expansion is motivated by the desire to save money in the sector without appreciating the impact on the quality of education for students. The creation of a degree-granting online institution or heavy expansion of online education will not address the fundamental issues around teaching quality and student Policy makers also need to be careful not to engagement. Post-secondary institutions in assume that online education is cheaper. The Ontario already offer a development, maintenance host of online courses at “Online education takes away and delivery of quality from the setting education all levels, many of which online courses and content is should be promoting. You don’t expensive and can cost more have been developed by instructors with in-depth just learn from your professors, than “traditional” classroom knowledge of online learning. Some institutions you learn from your peers” platforms. and communities in the – University of Toronto Students learn in a variety Scarborough Campus Student province still don’t even have the basic infrastructure that of ways and cannot would support the expansion of online necessarily be expected to engage with an educational opportunities. In some cases, online learning experience in the same these technology-related costs have been way they can in a classroom. For example, passed directly to students. On many a working professional taking one or two campuses, students face additional ancillary online courses toward their MBA will have fees associated with the costs of online different needs and another learning style learning including fees to access online than a first-year undergraduate student course material, wireless internet on campus who just completed high school. It is also and mandatory equipment costs. Creating important that online learning not be a new degree-granting, online institution seen as the remedy for barriers faced by would not only be redundant considering marginalized students. For example, some the online capacity of existing institutions in may argue that online learning is more the province, but it would be very costly. accessible for students with children, who face barriers to accessing classes because of

a lack of affordable childcare options on campus or the financial barriers of tuition fees. Online education should not be seen as a cost-cutting way to divert from the problem of large class sizes or accessibility issues such as the lack of affordable childcare, physical barriers, and regional disparities in course offerings. Instead, it should be seen as one tool that can complement diverse learning and teaching styles.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

RECOMMENDATION • Ensure the Ontario Online Institute remains an information portal for online courses in the province – not a new, degree-granting institution.

the ability of those students who aren’t engaged in their own entrepreneurial pursuits from having meaningful, experiential learning opportunities.

With the current economic climate, many students are looking for work-related Student Engagement & opportunities in their field of study as they pursue their diploma or degree. Some Experiential Learning institutions have developed and expanded Students have a myriad of learning co-op programs, providing valuable handsstyles and respond to different teaching on learning opportunities for students. approaches in their own ways. Whether Unfortunately, many students must pay they are sitting in the back of a lecture hall placement or other fees in order to access with 500 other people, participating in a these experiential opportunities and seminar class with 15 classmates, working in students in co-op programs a laboratory with a lab partner, often find themselves “The whole point of enjoying a field trip or working learning is to be in class, providing unpaid work for hard in a co-op placement, their employers when they see your peers, and have students retain knowledge normally rely on summer the experience of it.” and develop skills at their own or seasonal work to pay pace. In addition to spending – Ontario College of Art for school. In many cases, time in the classroom, students are paying their and Design University students should all have the college or university in Student opportunity to learn through addition to receiving nothing hands-on and creative experiences. from their employer. Such practices are a deterrent for students to pursue co-op Ontario’s high student-faculty ratio has programs and allow students to be exploited diminished students’ ability to learn in as cheap labour for companies. smaller classes or groups or undertake a research project with a professor. The Students have also relied on Ontario Work rapid rise in enrolment, along with the Study Program (OWSP) opportunities to lack of commensurate funding directed gain field-related experience within their to deferred maintenance or new building own college or university. These experiences construction, has placed more pressure on provide students the opportunity to be students and their instructors to work with involved with the college or university limited laboratory space and equipment. community while developing their research, The increasing popularity of business and organizational and communication skills. commercialization incubators can limited

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


However, the 2012 Ontario Budget permanently slashed all provincial funding to the OWSP, leaving cash-strapped institutions to fund the programs as they choose.

learning spaces to build a diversity of skills, including problem solving, critical thinking skills and job specific skills, whatever the marketability of the work they do.

The unwillingness of policy makers to improve the student-faculty ratio and the In many cases, students are working in lack of capital funding directed addition to attending “Booking studios and to learning space makes it school, sometimes in equipment required for more difficult for students to a job related to their assignments is difficult. gain non-classroom learning field of study, but it can It prevents us from opportunities. The financial be difficult to translate burden of co-op placements this into credits that experimenting and selfand cuts to OWSP continues students can use directed learning. to cause a shrinking pool towards their degree. – Ryerson University Student of work-related learning Even more concerning opportunities for students. In is that some programs addition, the current government’s focus require placements or internships to be on online education and entrepreneurial unpaid, creating situations where students learning will further alienate students who are employed stop getting paid for who are looking for experiential learning doing the same work in order to fulfill opportunities but cannot find them. program requirements. Students have always acknowledged the value of non-classroom learning opportunities to complement their experiences in the classroom. Unfortunately, Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge and the roundtable discussions around it have been primarily concerned with a narrow idea of experiential learning where student ideas can be easily commercialized, even suggesting that capital funding for learning space be incentivized based on what is produced and marketable from these spaces. Students see the need for different types of RECOMMENDATION • Reinstate provincial funding for the Ontario Work Study Program. • Prohibit the institutional practice of charging placement fees for co-op or internship placements. • Prohibit institutions from requiring unpaid placements in programs of study.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Creating Accessible Post-Secondary Education
Making post-secondary education accessible for all students encompasses financial barriers, but also unique barriers faced by students facing a diverse set of physical, social, cultural and regional realities. Any discussion about educational quality and improving the student experience should also include the ways in which classrooms, events and campus spaces are or are not inclusive to all students.

Students with Disabilities
College and university campuses do not always have adequate physical accommodations for all students, especially if they were not designed and built in the last decade. Many buildings lack the basic elements like elevators, adequate hallway space, ramps, functioning automatic doors and clear signage that students depend on just to get around campus. The backlog in deferred maintenance in the province means that colleges and universities are less likely to make the structural changes needed to accommodate students who confront physical barriers on campus. Students with invisible disabilities face similar barriers participating in classes and campus life and need adequate support from their institutions. The availability of support services for students with disabilities ranges across institutions across the province, while provincial funding for students with disabilities often comes in the form of targeted grants to some institutions. Some policy makers have suggested that technology, including delivering more content online, can more adequately address the challenges faced by students with disabilities. While the creative use of technology can help some students, caution needs to be taken when trying to rely on technology to address the multitude of barriers that students with disabilities face. RECOMMENDATION • Address the shortfall in deferred maintenance and ensure that buildings are sustainable and accessible for students.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


Students & Mental Health

In recent years, policy makers and the media have begun to pay attention to student mental health issues in light of several tragic events where university students took their own lives. Apart from the stories that are Financial pressure is only one of several covered in the news, there are a countless causes of mental health issues that students number of students on campuses across the face on campuses across the province. province who suffer from stress and other College and university campuses are mental health issues. Many of these students diverse communities where students want don’t have the support they need and are to learn, but to also fit in and develop faced with difficult life circumstances. lasting relationships with While some stakeholders in the their peers. Yet, college and sector have been advocating for “Campuses become university campuses are not more and better mental health home away from home always inclusive spaces. Campus support services for students for students and we cultures can easily alienate – which are badly needed – rely on services that people who don’t fit into they often overlook some of are easily accessible.” particular societal norms and the systemic causes of stress – Carleton University can be pervasively oppressive. and mental health issues that Student Many students confront students face. challenging social situations as In addition to dealing with new soon as they set foot on their campus for the environments, challenging school work first time. and other personal circumstances, students For example, students who don’t drink have to contend with the high cost of their alcohol or enjoy the large group mentality education. Many students from low- and of frosh week may not feel like they are able middle-income families do not have the to participate in campus life when they start luxury of attending school while being able school. In particular cases, the discomfort to easily afford their day-to-day expenses. of having to witness sexist or homophobic After covering their school costs, students chants or songs is enough to turn someone often have to make tough choices between off from participating in campus activities. paying rent, eating healthy meals or traveling The numerous cases of racist costumes, back home to see family. More students than hazing incidents, academic discrimination ever are working throughout the school year and hate graffiti all contribute to making to pay for tuition fees and living expenses, campuses less inclusive for students. The holding full-time or several part-time or

seasonal jobs. Students with dependents have additional responsibilities and are more likely to study part-time. When students are faced with these pressures, they often suffer from stress, anxiety and other mental health issues that go unnoticed.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Number of summer days required to work in order to pay off tuition fees for one year of full-time study
*35 hours per week at minimum wage

May 1

20 weeks*


8 weeks*


June 26

August 31 September 18 (Statistics Canada, Ministry of Labour)

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


escalating number of sexual assaults – including undocumented cases that occur in campus bars and residences – make college and university campuses less safe for women. While campuses can be great communities where students from diverse backgrounds can meaningfully socialize and learn, they can also be very oppressive spaces. As a result, students who may already face financial, academic and other personal challenges may suffer from mental health issues that are exacerbated by particular campus cultures and spaces.

French Language Education
Most of Ontario’s colleges and universities are English-only institutions with the exception of two francophone colleges (Collège Boréal, La Cité collégiale) and three bilingual universities (University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa, Laurentian University/Université Laurentienne and York University’s Glendon College/Collège Glendon). Considering Ontario’s sizable francophone population and French as one of the country’s official languages, Frenchlanguage education is important for the development of Ontario communities. As such, students should be able to access a comprehensive range of French-language programs if they want to pursue them no matter which region of the province they come from. Reports have shown that there is considerably less access to French-language

post-secondary options in Ontario, with people in the Central-Southwestern region faring worse than the rest of the province. Compared to English-language programs, Francophone students in the region have a three per cent access rate to French-language college and undergraduate programs.1 The shortage of French-language and bilingual programs and institutions has meant that many Francophone students end up pursuing degrees in English even if their first choice is to study in French. 2 Francophone students are often unable to find a Frenchlanguage program that is close to home or that is offered in their desired field of study. Francophone students commonly cannot access French-language programs, but those who manage to enroll in bilingual programs also face structural barriers to a French-language education. Despite attending bilingual institutions, many Francophone students end up not being able to complete their degrees entirely in French. Core courses are not always offered in both languages, while elective courses are less likely to be offered in French. Students have also cited being forced to use English course material for French-language courses. Some bilingual institutions have identified significant gaps between what they receive from the provincial government in bilingual
1 French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario. The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No Access, No Future. Government of Ontario. 2012. 2 Ibid.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Percentage of the population 15 years of age and over with a university degree


14.9% 11.4% 8.7%


Northern Ontario


Northern Ontario



(Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Canada, 1986-2006)

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


grants and the funding required to support French-language programs and services.3

Students should be able to pursue a diploma or degree in either English or French without limiting their career and life choices. The inadequate funding for the province’s bilingual institutions and the shortage of French-language program options is an issue of inequity. In addition to the financial “It is difficult to access and other structural barriers, French resources. The Francophone students and amount of resources families must deal with available in the library or the additional challenge of on campus doesn’t match obtaining a post-secondary the number of Francophone education in the language of students. their choice.

to provide high quality education. While public funding for colleges and universities continues to decline, northern institutions are further disadvantaged because they tend not to have large endowments, the same diversity in program mix or access to financial centres compared to other institutions in the province.

Students and families who reside in northern and rural regions of Ontario face barriers that are unique from those faced by students in large municipalities and in the southern region of the province. In general, communities in the North contend with higher prices – Laurentian University RECOMMENDATION for commodities, longer Student commuting distances, • Reinstate the funding for lower vacancy rates, fewer employment the Fellowship for Study in French and opportunities and lower than average wages. expand provincial funding for Frenchlanguage education. People from northern communities are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to access a college or university education. Regional Accessibility Everyone who lives in Ontario is entitled to the same opportunities to access a college or university education regardless of their region and proximity to a campus. This is particularly critical for students and communities in northern Ontario. For a variety of reasons, northern colleges and universities require additional supports
3 University of Ottawa Task Force Report: French at the University of Ottawa. University of Ottawa. 2007.

The government’s current process of requiring institutions to submit mandate agreements is particularly problematic for northern schools. The government’s explicit intention to encourage differentiation through the mandate agreements and project funding will put northern schools at a disadvantage and reduce access for northern communities. The move toward greater differentiation and specialization imposes a more rigid


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

structure that threatens the ability of the province to offer comprehensive educational choices in every community.

Institutions in northern Ontario have already been cutting programs or moving them to satellite campuses in other regions of the province. Differentiation through these mandate agreements will particularly discourage northern institutions from further developing graduate or professional programs. Having a full range of academic programs is vital to addressing the social and economic realities of northern communities. With further differentiation, students from these “I worked full time all communities are forced to move far from home for their summer and can’t even come close to paying desired program – leaving tuition let alone rent them to choose between incurring large additional and everything else” – expenses or sacrificing their University of Toronto educational goals. Student RECOMMENDATION • Provide enhanced funding to northern institutions in order to provide and establish a comprehensive range of programs for northern communities.

a variety of reasons, many students who start a post-secondary diploma or degree at one institution may choose to finish it at another. A student may discover new academic or professional interests, find a specialized program that is more suitable for their area of study, or discover an opportunity to study under a particular faculty member. Other students may have family or personal circumstances that require them to move. In the changing economy, more students are going back to school or supplementing a diploma or degree with a second designation. Students need the flexibility of transferring or entering into new programs without having to duplicate credits that they have already earned depending on the institution they choose, the program of study they select and their ability to negotiate with administrators to navigate the system. This requires the timely establishment of a province-wide credit transfer system that can address the credential barriers that students face when navigating through the college and university system. Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge also pushes the idea of three-year degrees – which already exist in Ontario – with the belief that this would improve international mobility for graduates. The paper and the roundtable sessions frequently used the European Bologna Process as a model for changing

Flexibility for Students
Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge acknowledges issues around credit transfer, credential compatibility and student mobility. Unlike some other provinces, Ontario is still in the process of establishing a province-wide credit transfer system. For

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


degree structures in the province. The Bologna process has received widespread criticism for its attempt to streamline and ‘harmonize’ the education system in Europe, with no evidence that it has benefitted students themselves. The interest in three-year degrees has come with many assumptions – that restructuring undergraduate programs will not impact graduate programs in the province or that there would be no negative impact on students wanting to pursue graduate programs outside of Ontario or in the United States. The three-year degree model based on the Bologna Process has shown that there could be reduced flexibility for students because of the streamed and specialized structure of that model. It has also been suggested that students can simply study full-time throughout the year to complete their degrees faster, without an appreciation for the financial constraints that force students to work throughout the summer and during the school year. At this point, the government’s vision for implementing three-year degrees is still unclear. However, students are cautious about the rush to shorten degrees for the sake of fast-tracking through the system instead of making a post-secondary education more accessible. RECOMMENDATION • Continue to establish the provincial credit transfer system that will allow students to move within the college and university systems without duplicating credits.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Building Democratic & Accountable Colleges & Universities
Colleges and universities play an important role in our society and students believe that as public institutions, our colleges and universities need to be transparent, accountable and democratic. Students, staff and faculty should be heavily involved in making decisions at colleges and universities, recognizing their important and unique position in understanding the institution. Unfortunately, students, staff and faculty face a number of barriers in participating fully in college and university decisions. Even if there is student representation, students’ voices are often still marginalized at senates and boards of governors. Students’ unions may have designated representatives on decision-making bodies such as boards of governors, academic councils and senates. In some cases, colleges and universities employ separate processes than the democratic elections of the students’ union to fill student representative positions on decision-making bodies. There may be little accountability about the selection process for these positions, inhibiting representation that is accountable to students. In other cases, administrations have attempted to limit students’ union participation in decision-making processes where representation exists. For example, in the spring of 2012, the Board of Governors at Lakehead University amended their Conflict of Interest Bylaw yo prevent student representatives students from fully participating in university decisions, including discussing and voting on tuition fees. While the bylaw was suspended temporarily, the threat against student participation in the highest decision-making body at Lakehead University continues to be present. Students’ unions, as well as faculty and staff, should have a greater share of the decisionmaking responsibility at our institutions, not less. Administrators, as well as board appointees who may have little or no direct connection to the day-to-day business of the institution, make the bulk of college and university decisions.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


These decisions can be out of touch with Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, campus realities and the priorities of Innovation and Knowledge suggests that students, staff and faculty. For example, we need to improve our post-secondary many universities have recently signed education system by making it “more onto an agreement with Access Copyright relevant, more flexible, and more that increases copyright fees from $3.25 to beneficial to Ontario students.” Doing $26 per student. While several universities this requires taking seriously students’ chose not to sign the agreement after desire to have a greater role in making hearing concerns from students, staff and institutional decisions. Students should faculty, others signed the agreement and be given the space to meaningfully engage immediately passed the cost at all levels of college “Students who sit on committees and university decisiononto students. don’t feel respected or heard. making including The agreement with Access Administrators and the helping to develop Copyright has a number government need to recognize diverse curriculum, of concerning elements that students know what they setting priorities for including expecting campus space and are talking about.” universities to closely making decisions about monitor the personal use – University of Ottawa Student institutional budgeting. of materials by students and faculty and is out of step with recent court decisions on fair dealing, along with the increasing availablility of open access materials. At Carleton University, which opted out of the deal, university officials have found that 80 per cent of requested copyrighted works are already covered under licensing the university has through existing resources such as databases. Students recognize that there are many ways that the transfer of information has changed over the past decade, with more information being shared online and the rise of more open access journals, extensive online databases and e-publishing. However, the limited decision-making power of students has allowed many institutions to enter into costly and problematic agreements. Colleges and universities in Ontario are all governed by acts of the Ontario Legislature. These acts are what determine the composition and size of boards of governors. The government is in a position to be able to ensure boards are more represenative of the university community. RECOMMENDATION • Mandate universities and colleges to undertake governance changes that would increase student representation on decision-making bodies.


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Cross-country snapshot of student-friendly policies and rights

• Provincial health coverage for international students • Right to organize legislation • Ombudsman oversight of universities

• Lowest per-student funding and highest student-faculty ratio • Highest tuition fees and highest student debt • No student protection

• Right to organize legislation

• Interest-free loans • Ombudsman oversight of universities

• Interest-free loans • Provincial health care for international students

• Highest per-student funding in Canada

• Provincial health care for international students

• Provincial health care for international students

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


Right to Organize Legislation for Students’ Unions
Students’ unions are on the frontlines of what’s happening on their campuses. When an unfair practice exists on campus, when students are unable to access the classes they need to complete their program or when a college or university is acting against institutional or government policy, students often turn to their union for support. Despite this very important role and perspective, students’ unions are not protected under the law because in Ontario no legislation protects the existence of students’ unions. Sometimes the work of a students’ union may be at odds with the direction of college and university administers, leaving students’ unions vulnerable to intimidation and repression. Administrators at some schools have withheld or threatened to withhold students’ union membership fees, threatening the operations and existence of local students’ unions. As democratic and autonomous organizations lead by students who have been elected to undertake work on behalf of students, students’ unions must have legal protections to ensure the right of students to exercise free expression without fear of reprisal or administrative retaliation. Students’ unions provide a variety of services for their members including health and dental coverage, discount programs, orientation and other community-building

events, equity centres, and other costsaving and support services. They may also operate student-run businesses that provide social spaces and affordable services to students while also providing student employment. All of these services can face indiscriminate threat from administrations, despite being democratically established and maintained by and for students. In 2010, for example, several students’ union services at Carleton University including health and dental benefits, student jobs and services provided through the Women’s Centre, Disabilities Awareness Centre and others were threatened when the administration arbitrarily withheld membership fees from the Carleton University Students’ Association and Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association for most of the fall semester. Without legal protection, many students’ unions are also unable to fulfill requirements under the Corporations Act because administrators refuse to provide full membership lists. This limits the ability of a students’ union to communicate with their members on important issues and information about their union, hindering the students’ union’s ability to be transparent and accountable to their members. In 2011, MPPs Yasir Naqvi and Rosario Marchese co-sponsored a Private Member’s Bill, Bill 184: An Act Respecting Student Associations at Post-secondary Institutions in Ontario, that provided basic protections for


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

students’ unions while also ensuring that students’ unions remain accountable to their members. Legislation to protect students’ unions already exists in Québec and British Columbia. RECOMMENDATION • Reintroduce legislation that would provide legal protection for students’ unions.

These complaints covered a diverse set of issues, including fees and refunds, course requirements, marks, expulsions, decisions of internal academic appeals committees, unfair policies and the services of the university’s internal ombudsman office.1 During the last sessions of the Ontario Legislature, a Private Member’s Bill that would have ensured that the Ontario Ombudsman could investigate complaints in the MUSH sector was voted down. Students believe that this decision should be reconsidered and Ontario should follow the lead of British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador to expand the purview of the Ontario Ombudsman. This would provide a much needed boost in measures for students to have unfair practices at universities investigated independently. RECOMMENDATION • Extend the purview of the Ontario Ombudsman to include university oversight.

Oversight by the Ontario Ombudsman
University students’ ability to rely on accountability at their institutions is further undermined by the lack of oversight by the Ontario Ombudsman. The Ontario Ombudsman, an agency of the Ontario government, has the power to investigate complaints about fairness lodged against many public services and agencies, but does not have purview over the municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals (MUSH) sector. If a student experiences unfairness in the Ontario college system or with the Ontario Student Assistance Program, that student can contact the Ontario Ombudsman and file a complaint. Unfortunately, university students do not have this same protection when it pertains to their institution. Complaints filed by college students have led to important changes for students. In 2011-12, the Ontario Ombudsman received 50 complaints related to public universities that the office could not investigate.

Capping University & College Salaries
Students are obviously concerned about the direction of their institutions, including how resources are managed and allocated. Ontario now spends less in real dollars per student than 20 years ago. In addition to
1 André Marin. 2011-2012 Annual Report. Ombdusman Ontario. 2012.

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


increased funding, there is a need to ensure colleges and universities are spending public money in an accountable way. The government recently announced it would be capping management salaries in a variety of sectors, including at colleges and universities. Capping salaries at colleges and universities is one way to both redirect funds within the system, and ensure a balance between reasonable compensation and other expenses. Students would like to see this the current cap of $418,000 for new hires reduced to a lower cap that applies across the board to both new hires and existing staff. RECOMMENDATION • Cap university sector salaries at $250,000 and college sector salaries at $200,000.

are going to this agency. HEQCO has been unable or unwilling to investigate several important issues facing the post-secondary education system in Ontario, including the impacts of high tuition fees, long completion and retention rates for graduate students, the proliferation of contract or sessional faculty and the impact of private research funding on academic freedom. Instead, HEQCO has used public money to purchase ads in commuter newspapers across Ontario to promote a biased and highly questionable myth/fact competition that contradicts research that is conducted by many other organizations and individuals in the higher education sector. In addition, HEQCO has come under fire recently because of allegations of research misconduct. In April 2012, allegations arose from researchers who had worked on a project that was contracted by HEQCO to Queen’s University that the conclusions of their report had been significantly altered without their knowledge or consent. The changes ensured that the report aligned with HEQCO’s already established agenda. This instance of alleged research misconduct raises questions about whether public money should be directed to an agency that serves as a mouth piece for certain government-supported policy agendas. RECOMMENDATION • Eliminate the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and redirect funding toward graduate research.

Accountable Research on Post-Secondary Education
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) is a provincially funded, arms-length body that undertakes and publishes research on Ontario’s higher education system. Unfortunately, HEQCO has consistently forwarded a research and policy agenda that is out of step with other research in the sector, ignoring student and faculty concerns. Students, faculty and staff have consistently condemned HEQCO for flawed and misleading policy initiatives and remain concerned that $5 million supposedly earmarked for research annually


Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario




Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Fighting for Our Vision
This year has been a historic one for student movements. Students in Ontario watched and were inspired by their peers in Québec who were able to stop tuition fee increases through mass mobilization. Students in Québec organized the longest, largest student strike in Canadian history, but they also built alliances with community members to present a vision for Québec. That vision is one where public services are supported, where education is a right for all and not a privilege for a few and where students and communities are engaged democratically in the decisions that impact them. This vision is one that is shared by Ontario students and our allies. The government has so far presented a vision where we need to justify the value of colleges and universities because there is a shrinking pool of resources for our public resources. On several occasions, attempts have been made by the government to suggest that calls from students for an affordable and accessible system are at odds with a high quality system. Additionally, the interests of students are falsely suggested to be at odds with the interests of faculty, support staff and other stakeholders on our campuses. The vision that students have is a much more holistic approach that recognizes the need to address affordability, access, quality and accountability at our institutions. Over September, students across the province spoke out about the issues they were facing on their campuses. The vision in this document has been crafted by students and shows that students have a transformative vision for colleges and universities – perhaps just not what the government had in mind. The government’s approach to transformative change in the sector has not tried to engage students about what they see and understand as the problems on our campuses. Instead, they have presented an agenda based on several problematic assumptions about what our colleges and universities need. Meaningful consultations require that stakeholders are engaged and are not available to simply provide feedback on what seems like a forgone conclusion. Rather, they should be indentifying the problems in the system and should be genuinely heard when suggesting solutions.

“University has become a job factory, I want more than that” – McMaster University

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


Countries with nominal or no fees for post-secondary education



Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario


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