University Budgets and the Case for Fairer Cost Sharing
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I can hardly believe that the end of September is already here! It’s been a crazy month on our campuses and a great month for us at OUSA. We saw excited first year faces, the return of our upper year students, and finally our campuses are filled with the hustle and bustle that we are so used to (unfortunately the coffee lines have returned).
Gap years are ever increasing in popularity amongst students. But can you necessitate taking one?
A gap year is the year between high school and post-secondary or between post-secondary and graduate school during which individuals typically choose to work or travel. In our parent’s generation, gap years were a rarity and though they are growing in popularity, the statistics in Canada are nowhere close to the popularity in Europe, where gap years are considered a rite of passage.
Last January, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) created headlines across the province with a precedent-setting decision related to academic accommodation for students with disabilities. It began when a PhD student at York University was seeking an academic accommodation, and was required to relay her Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM) diagnosis. She refused to accept this – she knew that a label was not necessary to receive appropriate accommodations. Eventually, the OHRC intervened and released new academic accommodations for students with mental health disabilities.
Imagine a centralized location where current and potential post-secondary students would be able to access the admission requirements for every program in the province. Imagine a place where these people could also see the total cost of these programs, including tuition, ancillary fees, and the costs of required educational materials. Maybe this centralized location could also include some information regarding student satisfaction with all aspects of their institutions.
One principle underlines all of OUSA’s advocacy work:
All willing and qualified individuals in Ontario must be able to access and excel within the post-secondary education system.
This includes students from marginalized groups, like those with disabilities.
Unfortunately, students with disabilities continue to be underserved by their universities. They access and complete university at lower rates than those without disabilities; they are likely to experience more exclusion, marginalization, and difficulty than their peers; and their experiences of discrimination can be compounded by other characteristics, including the type of disability they have. Among Ontarians with disabilities, those with physical disabilities are the most likely to attain postsecondary credentials, yet learning disabilities, mental health disabilities, and chronic illnesses are the most common among university students.
A Texas professor said “You can read about something, you can watch a video; but it’s only when you’re doing it that you truly absorb that knowledge.”
With desirable careers in such high demand, employers are increasingly favouring individuals with hands-on experience. It is estimated that more than half of employers require new employees to have proficiency in their field. This makes sense, since experiential learning has many benefits. Beyond experience in the field itself, studies show that experiential learning increases retention of information, attitude towards learning, and creativity.
There is a story we like to tell.
It’s the one where you leave post-secondary education and enter the workforce with a crisp degree and a new outlook. You have your resume in-hand, ready to take on the world. You’ve worked hard for four (or more) years and have learned skills in each of your courses that gave you well-rounded knowledge. You can now draw on this in every interview you have been offered. Sound familiar?
So I’ve got this thorn in my side.
The Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC) recently published the results of their first year student survey and reports on differences between visible minorities and non-visible minorities. All well and good. It seems as if analysts arrive at these two groups through back-coding; that is, based on respondents’ self-reported data they group respondents into categories that better suit their analyses. Again, all well and good. This is common practice and is by no means the only time this type of demographic data has been reported in this way.
Happy beginning of the 2016/2017 school year! For those of us in the post-secondary education sector the greatest time of the year is upon us. Students are returning to campuses across our province with great enthusiasm for the year to come. In just a few days the lecture halls, campus lawns, and residence rooms will be alive with excitement. Our OUSA members are very ecstatic to welcome the class of 2020 to our institutions and I personally want to congratulate you on taking this next step in your lives.
“Ontario welcomes international students because of the diverse perspectives they bring to our institutions of higher learning.”
Throughout the summer, I have often found myself in discussions about international students. During these discussions I have constantly heard about the “benefits” these individuals bring to Canadian universities described as “unique perspectives in class discussions” or “a significant economic impact.” This is true – international students do provide immeasurable benefits; however, they also face significant barriers while attending our institutions. We need to start shifting our focus from the benefits these students bring, to ways that we can help them succeed while they are attending our institutions.