905 Voters worried about the cost of higher education, favour greater government investment, says new poll

HAMILTON, ON, Feb. 9 /CNW/ - Voters in the 905 area code believe tuition is too high and worry about the cost of attending higher education, according to a new poll released today. In addition, a strong majority of those polled believe a freeze on government funding for postsecondary education would have a negative impact on the province's colleges and universities.

The poll, commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario (CFS-O), found that 80 per cent of 905 residents are concerned about the accessibility of higher education, while 70 per cent believe tuition fees are too high. At the same time, 65 per cent of respondents believe the freezing higher education funding would harm the postsecondary system, compared to just 4 per cent who believe such a freeze would have a positive effect.

"This message sends a clear message to Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government," said Dr. André Turcotte, professor at Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication and chief investigator for this study. "Voters in the 905 want tuition fees to be brought under control, and for the Government of Ontario to continue investing in the quality of education offered by our institutions."

In Ontario, tuition fees have risen by an average of 28 per cent over the past five years. Ontario now has the highest tuition fees in Canada - an average of $6,307 per year for an undergraduate student and nearly $9,000 for a graduate student.

"This poll shows that Ontarians living in the 905 region are deeply worried about the cost of college and university education," said Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of the CFS-O. "The government needs to hear their voices and take action to ensure the accessibility of our higher education system. Ontario needs a tuition fee freeze, and it needs it now."

Other important findings indicate a strong preference for continued public investment in higher education, even in the face of the provincial deficit. Of those polled, 67 per cent said that the government should not use a higher education funding freeze to address Ontario's budget crunch, and 72 per cent believe postsecondary education should be a high priority for the provincial government.

"905 voters understand that public funding is an essential part of a quality university education, and that our universities are an important part of our province" said Professor Mark Langer, President of OCUFA. "To ensure the economic success and social vitality of Ontario, we need to keep investing in our universities, our faculty, and our students."

The results of this study are based on a poll of 1800 Ontarians over the age of 18 conducted between January 5 and 14, 2011.  The 905 results are based on a sample of 400 residents over the age of 18. The margin of error for the 905 sample is +/- 4.0 percentage points within a confidence interval of 95%.

This is the third wave of findings released to date. The first findings were released on Friday January 21, 2011 and examined Ontarians' attitudes towards the internationalization of post-secondary education. The second looked at attitudes towards higher education in the Ottawa region. More results will be unveiled over the next four weeks in Kitchener-Waterloo (March 2) and Toronto (March 15). For more details and complete results please visit http://www.ocufa.on.ca.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is the voice of 17,000 university professors and academic librarians across Ontario. The Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario unites more than 300,000 college and university undergraduate and graduate students studying at post-secondary institutions across the province.

SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students

For further information:

Henry Mandelbaum, Executive Director, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations: 416 671 3230

Nora Loreto, Communications and Government Relations Coordinator, CFS-Ontario: 416-925-3825or416-846-6672

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