OUSA policy paper revisions head to Queen’s Park
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Policy paper revisions were the focus of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s bi-annual general assembly, hosted at the University of Windsor from Nov. 4 to 6.
This year’s policy papers focus on four key topics: tuition, accountability, aboriginal issues and system growth. The recommendations are taken to Queen’s Park over the first week of December for the Student Engagement Conference, or “LobbyCon,” according to Kim Orr, vice president university affairs for the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance.
Some of the issues that will be brought to parliament this year include tying the national inflation rate with tuition increases, a revival of aboriginal-based classes, even distribution between graduate- and research-based education and an increase in student representatives on the board of directors of universities across the province.
- More student representation on the board of governors of universities (decide financial issues)
- “Students contribute 50 per cent of operating costs to universities with the other 49 per cent coming from the government and one per cent coming from outside sources. So we think students should have much more representation,” said Kimberley Orr.
- 2/3 cost sharing model
- Students should only pay 1/3 of cost
- Raise rates with inflation
- Flat fee tuition, in which students pay per course taken so it doesn’t disadvantage part-time students.
- Breaks down how the provincial government can help aboriginals achieve a post-secondary education
- Teacher training to create a more welcoming environment
- Try to offer more courses in aboriginal culture studies
- Prepair aboriginals for post-secondary study
- Some schools want to do nothing, but research teaching and research go hand and hand.
- “Every school should be a combination of teaching and research. If a school wants to concentrate on research, there still has to be undergraduate opportunities and well-developed ones at your local university,” said Orr.
- Cap on differentiation funding at the federal level; can’t put more money into one department by eliminating another.
These papers, which have many subcategories and are pitched by OUSA to legislators each year, do have an impact, said Orr.
“I think they (politicians) have been very receptive to last year’s requests. The provincial election this year was a great indication … everyone ran on multi-million dollar post-secondary education platforms,” she said. “The 30 per cent rebate the Liberals are currently implementing was brought up at LobbyCon last year.”
The rebate, which Orr said, “Will give students a break on tuition, rather than getting a tax break after graduation when they are already paying interest on student loans,” was confirmed by Windsor-West Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan.
“Our government will proceed with the tuition tax grant. It will be retroactive to January of this coming year at an estimated cost of $500-million per year,” Duncan said in his address to the general assembly. “Governments are called upon to set priorities that are important both in the short- and the long-term … post-secondary education, in my view, and my government’s view, is absolutely fundamental.”
Financial crunches have become a simple fact of university administration, despite a steady stream of revenue over the past 20 years, according to professor Ian Clark of the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance.
“The inflation rate within universities is twice as high as the rate of inflation in the general economy,” said Clark, who is also the author of Academic Reform. “We have a unsustainable system … so the question becomes, what has to give and what are the implications?”
One of many financial concerns revolving around the increased cost of retaining professors, which universities try to subsidize by exploiting sessional staff and increasing class sizes, Clark said. He pointed to York University as the most extreme example of this, with part-time faculty bearing 60 per cent of the teaching duties.
“Students are effected with larger and larger class sizes and more and more sessional professors,” Clark said. “That’s not to say part-time faculty aren’t excellent, but they may lack the institutional attachment that allows for long term professional and personal development with students.”
Orr and UWSA president André Capaldi will be attending LobbyCon on behalf of the university. For more information on LobbyCon or to view the OUSA policy papers, visit ousa.ca.