Students, staff, and faculty urge parties to make higher education a priority

TORONTO, May 26, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario University and College Coalition (OUCC) issued a call to the province's political parties to increase public investment in colleges and universities, reduce tuition fees for all students, and protect the rights of post-secondary education workers.

Two weeks ago, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario released an election platform that would be disastrous for public, affordable higher education in Ontario. The OUCC hopes the PC Party will reject its devastating plan for job and funding cuts and pursue more beneficial policies.

Last week, the Ontario New Democratic Party promised to freeze tuition fees for four years and eliminate interest on student loans. The NDP did not commit to increasing funding for colleges and universities in the province.

The Liberal platform released yesterday contained no new measures to address high tuition fees or underfunding for post-secondary education. Under the current Liberal government tuition fees have increased as much as 80 per cent. The Liberal platform does include the creation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, an important step for ensuring retirement security for all Ontarians.

"With the highest tuition fees in the country, record high student debt loads and a dismal job market, today's generation of youth are set to be worse off than our parents' generation," said Alastair Woods Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. "Ontario's political parties must remember that you cannot build a brighter future without investing in the students and youth who will live in it."

"For too long, students, faculty and support staff at Ontario's Universities have seen provincial governments of all stripes deprive post-secondary education of needed funds. On a per capita basis, Ontario's post-secondary students receive less funding than any jurisdiction in Canada," said Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of CUPE's Ontario University Workers' Coordinating Committee (OUWCC).  "In this election, ensuring Ontario's universities are adequately funded, transparently governed, accessible and affordable needs to be a 'ballot box' issue for every Ontario voter, and for the parties seeking to govern."

"This is an election about jobs and the economy," said Kate Lawson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). "Universities and colleges are an integral part of the economic engine of Ontario. We can't create jobs and grow the economy if we're not prepared to make public investments in higher education."

"The post-secondary education system in Ontario is in crisis and must be addressed immediately.  Inadequate funding has led to a ratio of three part-time staff for every full-time staff position at Ontario colleges. Cost-cutting measures such as privatization and imposed online learning compromise our future workforce. Only a serious commitment to properly funding this sector will ensure that our students receive the quality education that they deserve," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

"Enhanced public investment in our post-secondary institutions is crucial if Ontario wants to thrive in the current economic climate," said Paul Elliott, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. "Ontario students deserve a transparent post-secondary funding model that ensures increases in enrollment are tied to increases in the vital support staff positions that provide ancillary academic and social services to support their academic endeavours."

The OUCC represents students, staff, and faculty at all of Ontario's public colleges and universities. The coalition is comprised of: the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario; the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario; the Confederation of Ontario University Staff Associations & Unions; the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations; the Ontario Public Service Employees Union; the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation; the Public Service Alliance of Canada; Unifor; and the United Steelworkers (USW). For more information, please visit http://ontariouniversitycoalition.ca.

SOURCE Ontario University & College Coalition

For further information:

Kaley Kennedy, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario: (647) 302-3891 or communications@cfsontario.ca

Caitlin Kealey: 613-818-7956 or ocufa_outreach@ocufa.on.ca