Provincial budget to fund tuition freeze
By Marshall Bellamy
Amid the catcalls from hecklers in the Provincial Legislature,
Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara tabled the Liberal government’s
first budget on Tuesday, and post-secondary education will
not be left out in the cold.
While the budget leveled off spending in most of the provincial
ministries, health care and municipalities received generous
boosts in funding, along with post-secondary education.
The budget promised to fund the shortfall universities and
colleges will experience when tuition is frozen. A comprehensive
review of post-secondary education in the province will also
be led by former Ontario premier Bob Rae, and the Ontario Student
Assistance Program will undergo a $20.9-million overhaul.
“The overall aspect of it is that they have not increased
the Quality Assurance Fund,” said Acting Western President
and VP-research Nils Petersen, noting fewer funds will be coming
in to universities.
He also expressed doubts over how the $62.6-million promised
to increase enrollment will be spread out over Ontario’s
universities and whether the government would earmark money
for unfunded students. “There was a hope for funding
for unfunded students — we were hoping the province would
Petersen also explained future budgets may be different for
universities. “I think they are putting us in a holding
pattern for a year until the review comes out.”
Ontario Undergarduate Student Alliance executive director
Adam Spence echoed Petersen’s sentiments. “I would
agree we’re in a holding pattern,” he said. “The
larger reforms will take place in the long run. It will be
done in the early new year and that’s when we’ll
really pressure the government.
“This is an opportunity for shaping the system,” Spence
added, noting the government is taking the review very seriously. “They’re
putting a lot of stock in this review.”
“We still need more funding. We’re still 10th
in Canada for funding per student,” Spence noted, adding
that while the reforms to OSAP are welcome, changes are still
needed for student assistance. “The student assistance
system still needs reform. We want to see it in the form of
non-repayable funding or grants.”
“The budget really focuses on health care. It’s
not as clear if it focuses on education,” said Jacquetta
Newman, a political science professor at King’s University
College. Newman added the government seems focused on appearing
as if they will balance the budget by the next election four
years from now.
According to Newman, even though there will be an adjustment
to OSAP, the higher fees and taxes introduced in the budget
will hurt students. “You’re paying for smokes,
you’re paying for booze — if you’re living
off-campus you’re paying higher hydro bills.
“I don’t think much has changed,” she asserted,
referring to promises for faculty and rising maintenance costs
that did not receive funding. “The private sector will
come and bail out the universities.”
“I think it’s predictable; the government is going
to tackle the deficit and health care,” said Paul Barker,
a political science professor at Brescia University College. “It’s
a health care budget.”
Barker pointed to the increases to funding for primary, home,
and community care, all of which took up a sizable portion
of the funding from the budget.
The Liberal government also introduced a new health care premium
based on income. “This is going to be a tough one because
they promised no taxes,” Barker said.