TORONTO, May 1, 2014 /CNW/ - Despite investments of $500 million over 10 years aimed at addressing deferred maintenance, students are concerned that the 2014 Ontario Budget represents a missed opportunity to address the rapidly rising cost of post-secondary education and the widening university attainment gap for Ontario's most vulnerable populations.
In January, students released their 2014 Budget Submission, Education Works: Envisioning a Fairer Society for Ontario's Youth. This submission included recommendations for addressing shortcomings within Ontario's financial assistance programs, increasing co-op and work-integrated learning opportunities for undergraduates, and an investment in 200 new teaching-focused faculty positions across Ontario's university campuses.
"OUSA's pre-budget submission outlined educated, low-cost solutions to many of the challenges facing Ontario's students," said Amir Eftekarpour, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) President and Vice-President External of the University Students' Council (USC) of Western University. "Students were heartened to see that overall funding to the post-secondary system will increase, as well as the Province firming its commitment to Ontario Online's launch in 2015-16, enhanced student mobility and expanding work-integrated learning."
However, students were disappointed that the government again failed to address the reallocation of $340 million in tuition and education tax credits as financial assistance as a no-cost way to enhance the up-front and ongoing costs of attending university. "The omission of new funding aimed at addressing the affordability and accessibility of an undergraduate education is disappointing, particularly in the context of the Premier's remarks about the Budget as a strategic tool to boost Ontario's economic and social future," said Eftekarpour.
"The Budget's inclusion of critical infrastructure repair and upgrades at our post-secondary institutions signals the Province's recognition that physical campus spaces are critical to a student's academic success," said Eftekarpour. "Although students are appreciative of the $500 million targeted to address deferred maintenance on Ontario's campuses, students urge the government to ensure that any future investments earmarked for deferred maintenance projects match estimated current replacement values."
"A lack of investment in post-secondary education priorities in the 2014 provincial budget means that Ontario's students will continue to contend with some of the highest tuition and lowest per-student funding in Canada," continued Eftekarpour. "Students are hopeful that although not outlined in the Budget, the Province and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will continue to work to improve the affordability and accessibility for all qualified students in Ontario."
About the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
OUSA represents the interests of almost 140,000 professional and undergraduate, full- and part-time university students at seven member associations across Ontario.
SOURCE: Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
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