TORONTO, Feb. 20, 2013 /CNW/ – The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is pleased that Premier Wynne’s first Speech from the Throne placed so many student priorities at the forefront of the agenda for this upcoming legislative session.
Students are particularly enthusiastic to learn that combatting youth unemployment is a priority for Premier Wynne and her new Cabinet. The unemployment rate for university-educated youth in Ontario has increased substantially since the onset of the recession, climbing from 7.5 percent in 2008 to 11.8 percent in 2012. It is currently more than double the unemployment rate faced by their older, university-educated counterparts.
Students hope that upcoming discussions also include the topic of summer employment, as students in Ontario regularly rely on this income to fund their post-secondary education. In 2012, Ontario had the highest summer unemployment rate for students in Canada, with approximately 111,600 students unable to find work. If left unaddressed, high summer unemployment rates for Ontario’s youth will prevent more and more students from attaining a post-secondary education.
The Premier’s renewed commitment to improving mental health support in Ontario is also welcome news. Many post-secondary students are at an age that puts them at risk of experiencing early-onset mental health illnesses. Last summer’s announcement of a $21 million investment into a Mental Health Innovation Fund was an excellent first step to improving mental health services in Ontario, but more must be done to address this issue. OUSA has recommended that the provincial government prioritize investment in front-line care for mental health related-illness and that universities be given increased resources to improve on-campus mental health services to meet high student demand.
Finally, OUSA applauds the Premier’s commitment to continue to offer students the 30 Per Cent Off Ontario Tuition Grant (OTG) as a means of lowering the cost of post-secondary education in Ontario. Students will continue to work with the provincial government to ensure that this grant is expanded to include those students who are unable to enroll in university directly out of high school due to access barriers. Students from northern, rural, and aboriginal communities are less likely to attend university immediately after high school and would benefit from an extension of OTG eligibility requirements to include those who delay their entrance into post secondary.
In the months to come, students look forward to working with Premier Wynne and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities on specific actions to address these priorities and to further enhance the accessibility and quality of Ontario’s post-secondary system.
About the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA)
OUSA represents the interests of over 155,000 professional and undergraduate, full- and part-time university students at nine member associations across Ontario.
For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Brandon Sloan, Director of Communications.