Universities ask for funding to address applicant increases

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Ontario universities may have to start turning away record numbers of high school applicants unless the provincial government provides them with more funding.

The Council of Ontario Universities recently issued a release stating there has been “extraordinary growth” in the number of university applicants this year.

“More and more secondary students are becoming aware of the benefits of a post-secondary education,” said Jamie Mackay, VP-policy and analysis for COU.

“We already feel there are more students in the system than are being adequately funded. We certainly don’t want quality to be sacrificed and we don’t think the government does either.”

Mackay said the amount of university funding was calculated before the government knew how many people were applying to universities.

“Circumstances have changed fairly significantly since the 2005 budget,” he said, adding funding must increase significantly to accommodate for increased enrolment.

“The government needs to decide how much of a priority this is for them,” Mackay said.

Sheamus Murphy, a spokesperson for Chris Bentley, minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said more applications means high school students are responding to government measures created to increase accessibility.

“We have made a habit of funding all of the students we’ve added to the system over the years and all of the students who will be added in the future,” Murphy said.

“The COU is saying the quality money will be eaten up by the quantity,” said Paris Meilleur, VP-education for Western’s University Students’ Council.

The COU and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance want the government to speed up proposed funding, Meilleur said, adding current funding proposals are still trying to catch up after 10 years of underfunding.

“If we don’t speed up funding we’ll be playing catch-up for a long time,” she said. “We won’t be able to address issues like smaller class sizes and bursaries that affect Western students.”

Roma Harris, Western’s vice provost and registrar, said applications to Western were higher than the provincial increase.

“[However], our intention is to continue to hold our undergraduate intake at the same level,” Harris said.

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