The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, a lobby group that represents over 300,000 post-secondary students in Ontario, rejected the province’s discussion paper on post-secondary, saying that students representatives were not adequately consulted and that the proposals compromise quality in return for savings.
In a joint press conference with four of Ontario’s largest organizations representing students, faculty, and staff at universities and colleges, the CFS-O released their response, “Students’ Vision: The Future of Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education System”. The document covers topics that were not emphasized in the province’s paper, such as high tuition fees and student debt.
When the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities released a discussion paper titled “Strategies Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation, and Knowledge”, the province embarked on roundtable consultations—a process that has drawn criticism from stakeholders concerning the government’s intentions. The CFS-O, along with unions and administration, was invited to join the roundtable discussions while student unions were left out of the consultation process, according to the CFS-O.
“At each of the consultations, the issue was raised that students were underrepresented,” said Sarah Jayne King, the chairperson of the CFS-O, in an email. “After feeling the pressure to consult the largest stakeholders on our campuses, the Ministry set up a student-only consultation held in the second week of September, a busy time for student representatives.”
The paper proposes more online courses, three-year bachelor degrees, and year-round academic terms, and includes little discussion on research, post-graduate studies, and tuition fees.
“Beyond the process itself that largely left out student input, there are many changes that look to solve problems that do not exist, or changes that seek to implement changes that are framed as cost-saving measures, like mandatory online courses, when the reality is that to have high-quality online education, a lot of resources need to be put into it,” King said. “But above all, the fact that the MTCU is trying to separate the issue of tuition fees and of public funding from this massive discussion on transformative change is highly concerning for students and faculty.”
As part of the consultation process, the province also collected written feedback from the public. According to the ministry, a report will be released later this year that will include the province’s findings from the discussion.
Students in Ontario are paying the highest tuition fees in Canada for the fourth consecutive year, according to Statistics Canada. The government of Ontario seeks to employ austerity measures to address the $15-billion deficit, as per the 2012 budget.