Keeping up with the Smith report
By Sara Marett
It was at this time last year a panel appointed by the Ministry of Education travelled across the province seeking input from colleges and universities on the future of post-secondary education and schools are now urging the government to adopt the recommendations.
The Smith panel, chaired by now Trent University President David Smith, spent months visiting post-secondary institutions acquiring information on issues ranging from tuition fees to research policies to aid the Ministry in implementing education policies.
At a conference last week on the future of post-secondary institutions attended by Minister of Education Dave Johnson and Premier Mike Harris, university presidents including Smith, continued to urge the government to follow the recommendations made by the panel in light of the current crisis being felt by universities.
"I am, however, pleased at the recognition of our work it was the result of careful consultation in a short period of time," Smith said.
Some recommendations made by the report included freezing cuts to post-secondary education, allowing universities to set tuition fees, implementing an income contingent loan program and making the interest on student loans tax deductible. A new loan plan as well as deductible loan interest are two issues currently being addressed by the government.
Premier Harris said the report gave the government much to consider and he urged the panel to make further recommendations.
Smith said if he was writing the report today, he wouldn't change much. "It is, however, imperative we obtain resources that match what the rest of the country has in order to compete."
Aurthur Kroeger, chancellor of Carleton University, said despite the impact of the Smith report, universities must continue to press the government. "Are there things this group can say to the government, other than being strapped for cash, that could help as far as flexibility?"
James Downey, president of Waterloo University, said it was the reasonable language and careful observations in the report that contributed to its impact.