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The Progressive Economics Forum

Fix PSE System Before Building Addition!

According to an article in yesterday’s Toronto Star, the Ontario government will create room for 60,000 new students in its colleges and universities by 2015-2016, 10% of which will be for graduate students. (I assume this means that, by 2015-2016, there will be 60,000 more students enroled in Ontario’s post-secondary insitutions than is currently the case, and that 10% of these new spaces will be for graduate students.)

While I’m not opposed on principle to the creation for new spaces in Ontario’s post-secondary education (PSE) system, I am concerned about how poorly-funded current students are.  As I’ve blogged about before, university students in Ontario currently pay the highest tuition in the country; and student debt for a four-year degree in Ontario has increased by 175% in roughly the past 15 years.  Ontario also provides less per-student funding than any other province and has larger class sizes than any other province.

Moreover, it hardly helps that federal funding for PSE is considerably less now than it was in the mid-1980s (in spite of rising enrolment), as I’ve blogged about here.

Announcing new spaces for college and university students makes for a nice photo-op, especially with a provincial election on the horizon.  But the McGuinty government’s approach on PSE is akin to building an addition to your house when the roof is leaking.

Comments

Comment from Matt
Time: June 9, 2011, 7:40 am

As far as personal anecdotes go, this issue of the leaky roof hit home for me just yesterday. A friend of mine informed me that he is dropping out of his PhD in a particular field of mechanical engineering after one of four years because he has arrived at an insurmountable financial wall of student debt. He is funded, but not enough to continue eating and paying rent along with interest payments from masters and bachelors degrees. So he has to get a job. One has to wonder about the efficiency of a government sinking its resources into one quarter of an individual’s degree.

Comment from Denise Freedman
Time: June 9, 2011, 4:42 pm

I, too, have been following various Liberal proposals for post-secondary education (PSE) in Ontario and Canada.

It is unclear to me what 60,000 new spaces actually means. Nor am I the only one, in the piece Nick refers to, the president of the University of Toronto says, “But these are costly programs, noted Naylor, adding he hopes the new spots also will come with some capital funding from the province for more lab space, study carrels and seminar rooms — as they have in the past — as well as continued federal and provincial scholarship dollars.”

In the recent final exam session at Carleton University I was part of the first cohort to have a final exam Saturday evening. Not the first evening exam, but the first on Saturday. It was among the final undergraduate exams I took.

Word now is that there will soon be lectures on Saturdays also. Hopefully only for undergraduates, but then, it is also unclear if there is any added cachet for graduate students today. It certainly seemed there was in the past.

In my recent Convocation, I was privileged to hear to hear the benefits of the speaker’s experience for the “YOUTH” (her emphasis), the graduates. We were asked to turn to the guests and thank our parents for their help in getting us here.

Sadly, my parents both died 20 years ago.

The president of the university also told us “YOUTH” how privileged we were to have our parents and family there to help us.

I remember the proposals of the federal Liberals in the past election campaign, their Education Passport, which also would have been of great help to parents. But not to the universities themselves or those of us who actually use libraries, classrooms, seminar rooms, etc.

I really wonder at the imagination of Liberal proposals which manage to erase the existence of people who came into this world before both my Convocation speaker and university president. Who have been contributing to society at least as long as they have, and have taken to heart what was once the mantra: “We will all have many careers in our lives and will need to train/educate for them.”

We have heard the recent federal budget contains funding to privatize universities and colleges, on top of previous funding to favour business perspectives.

As PSE becomes more and more a place not for students but to gather the votes of their parents, and more and more the place for business to make money at public expense, what will happen to all those for whom has been expended such ‘political imagination.’

Comment from Nick Falvo
Time: June 9, 2011, 5:06 pm

Denise:

Two questions for you…

1. Would you think less of me if I told you I’m not opposed to weekend classes and exams?

2. Can you elaborate what you mean re: “We have heard the recent federal budget contains funding to privatize universities and colleges?”

Comment from Denise Freedman
Time: June 10, 2011, 4:26 am

@Nick

If weekend classes were the only thing, maybe I wouldn’t be so concerned.

But they are a bellweather: if there is no room, as the president of the University of Toronto in the article you cited stated, then there are not enough classrooms, seminar rooms, etc. Maybe it is OK to have 4th year seminars with 30. What about graduate seminars? That will not change if these seminars are held on weekends.

The budget item I read in a media report; I don’t have the cite.

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