For years, Ontario students have had the highest tuition rates in Canada ($7 180, on average), well over twice as much as what Quebec students pay ($2 774). In addition, Ontario tuition continues to increase at about three times the rate of inflation.
the newspaper contacted university clubs for the Liberals (who have formed Ontario's government since 2003), Progressive Conservatives and NDP to ask what their party has done/would do to help make post-secondary education more affordable for Ontario students. These are their responses, edited to fit the page.
Ontario Liberal Party - Kaleem Hawa
The Ontario Liberal Party believes in students like you.
Last school year, more than 350 000 students—just over half of all full-time students—received financial assistance from the provincial government. The Liberal Party’s legacy of dedication and support for Ontario students in post-secondary institutions has never manifested itself more clearly than under Premier Kathleen Wynne.
With about 230 000 students having directly benefitted from the Liberals’ “30% Off Tuition” grant in 2012-2013, (up from 207 000 in 2011-2012), it is clear that the Ontario Liberal Party’s policy-driven agenda has begun to yield significant benefits for students across the province.
The Liberals are a party that understands how affordable education becomes the ticket to improving other pressing societal issues like unemployment, productivity loss, and skills underutilization.
With that in mind, Premier Wynne’s new policy of limiting tuition increases to an average of three per cent for four years (a two per cent reduction from last year) will save students $700 million—or over $1 200 per student.
The Liberal Party also understands that helping students find work can be just as important in making education affordable as giving them financial assistance. For that reason, Premier Wynne introduced a Youth Jobs Strategy in the 2013 budget that allocates $295 million over two years to create jobs and mentorship opportunities for about 30 000 youth across the province.
Premier Wynne looks forward to continuing her service to Ontario students in the coming years.
Ontario NDP- Joshua Mandryk
Ontario university students pay the highest tuition fees in the country while receiving the least investment per student. Based on the current framework, we can expect tuition to continually increase from three to five per cent each year depending on the program. This is unacceptable.
The Liberals’ much-touted “30% rebate” is a shell game. It was funded by cutting three existing grants for students. It is based on 30 per cent of the average tuition rate across Canada, rather than in Ontario. Furthermore, it is not available to many, including mature, part-time, and graduate students. We can do better.
I am a student in the Faculty of Law. In 1996, our tuition fees were $2 451. This year, they are $28 791. This didn’t happen by accident, but as a result of deliberate policy decisions and a withdrawal of commitment to public post-secondary education by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
The only viable solution to high and increasing tuition fees is a restored government commitment to post-secondary education. The Ontario NDP is committed to freezing tuition fees and expanding funding for post-secondary education. The federal NDP is committed to a national Post-Secondary Education Act to restore the federal role which was effectively abandoned in the 1990s.
Tuition fees are by no means an economic necessity. It is a matter of political will. Our role as a youth club is to advocate for an even greater commitment to affordable and accessible post-secondary education within the NDP. U of T is a hotbed for social activism, and I hope that students who want to translate their activism into political action will join the University of Toronto NDP.
Ontario PCs- Tim Thurley
We'll be honest—money is tight. The NDP and Liberals don't want to acknowledge this, because it gets in the way of their desire to spend more and run up more debt. An honest party just can't match their costly promises, because Ontarians can't afford them.
The good news is that we don't necessarily need to spend much more to get better results. We just need to spend what we have more efficiently. While education funding has increased 84 percent since 2003, we don't have the proportionate results to show for it. Tuition increases, yet quality stagnates. If we do not begin to fix the current systemic problems, our universities will not be close to the top for much longer.
In the recent Paths to Prosperity white papers, the Ontario PC Party has outlined a responsible, cost-efficient path to modernizing education. The proposals encourage universities to focus more on retention rates, quality of education, and post-graduate employment—the things that really matter to students—rather than simply increasing initial enrolment.
Furthermore, the proposals encourage a teaching-focused faculty by reevaluating the tenure and promotion system to make teaching as important to the formula as research.
When it comes to finances, we know students have been hit hard. Instead of sweeping, expensive, and ineffective programs like the Ontario Tuition Grant, the Ontario PCs have suggested reforming bursary programs to ensure that no talented student would be unable to pay for the education they desire. In addition, the Ontario PCs have proposed a cap on tuition increases of five per cent over three years, with any increases allowed only with corresponding improvements in quality.
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Guaranteed access to education for hard-working students, cost-efficient quality improvement, and a focus on employment are the best ways to put Ontario students back on the path to prosperity.