OUSA Releases Rural & Northern Students Policy Paper

All willing and qualified students should be able to access and excel within Ontario’s post-secondary education system, yet students from rural and northern communities continue to get pushed into the periphery of the sector. A variety of factors contribute to the problems facing rural and northern students, including: a lack of mentors and/or role models with university degrees, generally lower rates of participation and persistence in universities, inadequate transportation funding, poor infrastructure around inter-regional transit, under-resourced satellite campuses and limited employment opportunities for recent graduates, to name a few. These problems perpetuate significant barriers to rural and northern Ontarians, while raising concerns about the overall effectiveness of the province’s post-secondary sector.

OUSA is pleased to publish a policy paper with key recommendations that are representative of the principles and concerns of Ontario undergraduate students. These recommendations are founded on evidence-based policy and aimed at the Ontario government. This paper highlights and advocates for the following overarching goals: improved participation and persistence rates within Ontario universities for students coming from rural and northern communities, enhanced infrastructure to provide inter-regional transit for rural and northern students, and strengthened commitment for work integrated learning and community partnerships to promote employment opportunities and skills development for students in rural and northern Ontario.

This paper is intended to represent both rural and northern students pursuing university education across the province, as well as students opting to attend university in the north. Rural and northern students comprise of about 30 percent of OUSA’s membership, and their concerns demand the province’s attention. Continuing to ignore these issues will only perpetuate the ‘brain drain’ effect that is plaguing these communities. Part of the problem stems from the fact that several ministries represent diverse demographic groups and policy areas for rural and northern Ontario, spreading the responsibilities in a manner that holds virtually none of them accountable. We ask that the province appoint the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to take a leading role in addressing the issues facing rural and northern students in access, persistence, and employment.

OUSA believes that the policy recommendations outlined in our paper will enhance the resiliency of rural and northern Ontario and its university undergraduates, providing long-term benefits to the province’s growth and human capital. It is our hope that these evidence-based policy recommendations are seriously considered by the provincial government and that we can work together to improve the accessibility, affordability, accountability, and quality of the university sector for students in rural and northern Ontario.

You can read the policy brief and the full policy paper here.