“Ford just slammed the door on low income families who want to send their kids to college." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (21 Jan. 2019) — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says that Premier Doug Ford’s 10 per cent cut to college and university tuition fees is a recipe for disaster and is a full frontal attack on democracy.
Ford's announcement “was really about cuts to funding for Ontario post-secondary institutions. That’s bad news for Ontario colleges and universities, and bad news for students,” said Thomas. “Ford is giving you a little extra cash, and then screwing you over.”
Instead of increasing funding for universities and colleges to offset the revenue they will be losing as a result of the fee cut, universities and colleges will be expected to make budget cuts. Those cuts will affect both the programs that universities and colleges offer and the quality of those programs. Free tuition for students from low-income families is also being eliminated.
People from low-income families will find it more difficult to go to college or university
“Colleges and universities are getting cut to the bone. Student debt will not go down. Access to education will not improve. There are no winners,” said Thomas.
“Ford just slammed the door on low income families who want to send their kids to college. 10 per cent tuition cuts across the board do nothing to level the playing field and make education more accessible.”
Public losing chance to have input into colleges, education and health care
Thomas noted that Ford cancelled the College Task Force, which would have provided the consultation and advice to make better decisions. Ford also bypassed the legislature committee, which is travelling the province to hear from Ontarians about what they want to see in Ford’s first budget.
“Ford’s announcements on education and further restructuring health care this week have short circuited the committee’s work and turned it into a total sham,” Thomas said. “The Premier is making a mockery of democracy.
Ontario already had the lowest funding per student
“I’m especially worried about what this means for our northern communities,” said Kella Loschiavo, Chair of OPSEU’s Universities Sector. “Limiting access to tuition grants and cutting services will hit those students hard.”
RM Kennedy, Chair of OPSEU College Faculty Divisional Executive, said the Ford government's decision will be a disaster for the quality of Ontario’s education system, which already has the lowest funding per student in Canada. “They have just blasted a hole in the operating budgets of the colleges and universities. That means more precarious work, less services, and a further assault on the quality of education offered to our students.”
Services cut that help and encourage students to stay in school
“Ford is coming after student services,” said Janice Hagan, Chair of OPSEU College Support Staff Division. “By making student fees optional, he is effectively cutting student events and activities, student newspapers and radio, all those things that make campus life great. Those are exactly the things that keep students in school.
“Student fees also fund peer-support services that provide tutoring and mental health supports, and which provide jobs to so many students. The government just made everyone’s college years worse,” said Hagan.
OPSEU represents approximately 50,000 public post-secondary education workers across the province. This includes college faculty, full-time and part-time support staff, and university staff and faculty.