Will Performance Based Funding lead to accountable and high-quality education in Ontario?
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Today is International Women’s Day. It is important to use an occasion like this to talk about how far women have come in their quest for equal rights and equal standing in society. As a proud feminist, I am happy to see the attention the issue of gender inequality gets. However, there are still many serious issues women face in our society. One of them relates closely to the student governments and student unions that OUSA works so hard with: the issue of female leadership and representation in student governments at higher level positions.
When a student expresses a particular concern or interest in a campus affair, someone will likely respond by telling said individual to run to be a student representative. But what if you’ve missed the deadline, or what if that whole council thing has never really been for you? You are passionate about an issue, but you would rather not be involved in discussing other campus issues. Well that’s totally okay! And you’re not alone!
While it has been the Government of Ontario’s announcement of “free tuition” for low-income students that has grabbed most of the headlines, lost in the celebration was net billing. Set to come into effect in 2018-19, net billing is something that has been hidden in the depths of this budget, yet has the potential to hugely impact recruitment, transparency, and perceptions of access for students across Ontario. We have been marvelling over the fact that the new student financial aid system is going to be transformed from a complex, hidden, and intricate network of government bureaucracy into a transparent, accountable, and easy to understand social system, however the question that hasn’t come up as often, and the one that will make the most difference, is: how will students know what they actually have to pay?
What an exciting month it has been! Throughout all my involvement with OUSA, never before have I been as proud of our organization as I am now, with several ground-breaking developments in Ontario's post-secondary system resulting from our advocacy and partnerships with government. So, where to begin?
Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and Ontario perhaps its most diverse province. As of 2011, Canada had the world’s second largest foreign-born population and 19 percent of Canadians identified themselves as members of visible minority groups on the National Household Survey. In Ontario, 26 percent of the population identified as a member of a visible minority group; 16 percent of those individuals identified as Black.
Talk of the “skills gap” dominates public discourse about undergraduate employability. On one hand, employers are suggesting that they cannot find applicants with the right skillsets and name many types of transferable skills that they aren’t finding. On the other, universities claim that they are producing graduates with varied transferable skills and therefore should not be beholden to the whims of the labour market. Students and government are caught in the middle with a tremendous amount of misinformation and no evidence to begin setting things straight.
Today's blog is written by guest blogger Benjamin Miller, graduate student at the University of Ottawa.
It’s no secret that university students are feeling nervous these days. Youth employment of recent graduates has fallen from 80-85% in 1990 to 70-73% in 2012. It’s not just that the jobs aren’t forthcoming; Canada is facing an estimated skills shortage of as many as 1.5 million workers, but research would indicate graduates just don’t feel ready to fill this gap. It’s common to talk about encouraging people to go to other institutions like colleges and apprenticeships. Those are great for some: but what if you genuinely believe you belong at university, but are feeling apprehensive about your post-graduate outcomes? One solution is getting experience through university co-op programs, which are increasingly common- however, they can be slow to really get going at any given institution, and aren’t available in every program.
The recent discussions of a Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) in Finland (and the recent inclusion of it in the Green Party Federal Platform) got me thinking about the concept of a guaranteed basic income through a "student lens". Students have costs beyond tuition and other educational expenses to pay, and it can be difficult for them to cover them all, in addition to the standard costs of housing and rent, utilities, phone bills, food, and clothing. Accumulation of these expenses may often result in students falling into significant debt. It is often hard for students to pay off their loans, given that not all students are able to balance a part-time/full-time job while in school.
With the last third of my term quickly shrinking, it's been both motivating and astonishing to reflect on OUSA's successes this year. Over the last eight months there has been a lot to be excited about: we've passed post-secondary policy and introduced new OUSA events, have been a leading figure in the province's discussions on sexual assault and violence, and our recommendations during the funding formula consultation were largely adopted in the published report. Our sentiments on work-integrated learning have been acknowledged by business and the civil service alike, and we've continued collecting primary and secondary data through our research reports and the Ontario Post-Secondary Student Survey. The past month however, has largely focused on two things: tuition and financial aid.
Last month, the Government of Ontario held a Talent and Skills Summit (OTSS) that many education sector stakeholders, including OUSA, attended. The same week as the summit, McGill University President Suzanne Fortier suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that universities need to prepare students for the modern labour market, while American Vice President Joe Biden indicated that investing in education was one of the keys to saving the middle class.