Students respond to Ontario budget

March 28th, 2018

Toronto, ON – Students in Ontario, through the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, say this provincial budget brings relief for students.

The most important investment in this budget is a portion of the $2.1 billion in mental health funding that will be dedicated to post-secondary students. In November, OUSA partnered with the College Student Alliance, Council of Ontario Universities, and Colleges Ontario, to release In It Together an action plan for student mental health. The “whole of community” approach recommended in our action plan has been adopted by the provincial government’s commitment to integrated care. Other recommendations, such as resiliency training for students in K-12 education to help their transition to post-secondary education have been captured in this year’s budget. In order for post-secondary students to receive the portion of this investment they need, the government still needs to recognize post-secondary education as a priority group in their strategy.

Budget 2018 also reiterates budgetary commitments to expand OSAP for students by substantially reducing expected parental and spousal contributions to the cost of education. Parental and spousal contributions are currently a barrier for some students to receive necessary grants and loans to attend post-secondary education. These changes will increase the number of students benefiting from the OSAP Transformation.

While this budget is good for undergraduate students, our wallets continue to be burdened by the cost of textbooks. OUSA asked the government to invest more in eCampus Ontario to fund an Open at Scale project to create more open educational resources (free textbooks). As of November 2017, the Open Textbook Library has saved students over half a million dollars, but with more government investment, that number can grow.

A group of students not served by this year’s budget are International Students. While Budget 2018 mentions the upcoming International Strategy, OUSA believes the strategy must take the issues of international student tuition and healthcare as a priority.

In OUSA’s budget submission this year, we talked about the importance of further investments in experiential learning. In response to this, Budget 2018 includes an exciting investment of $132 million to support innovate EL programming (including paid opportunities) and a $12 million increase to the Career Ready Fund in 2020-2021 to create 28,000 more opportunities. This is a step in the right direction to reaching our goal of every students having an experiential learning opportunity during their studies.

Andrew Clubine, President of OUSA and University of Waterloo student on mental health:

“The government’s commitment to addressing mental health needs across the province is encouraging and long-overdue. This is a province-wide need, not just a post-secondary issue, but it disproportionately affects students in the traditional post-secondary age bracket. Approximately 3/4 of cases of mental illness manifest themselves between the ages of 17 and 24, making campuses the front line for mental health service provision for youth. Just under $12 million of this $2.1 billion investment is specifically targeted to post-secondary campuses. OUSA hopes that as details of the community investments are developed, post-secondary students and their needs will figure more prominently in the government’s plan to address mental illness, especially through on and off-campus partnerships.”

Landon Tulk, Vice-President of OUSA and Western University student on experiential learning:

“The acknowledgement in the budget of the contributions that experiential learning can make to students’ career readiness is very important. As the workplace and economy continue to change and grow, students should be able to access practical, hands-on experiential learning opportunities that support both their learning and career progression. Right now, every student does not have access to meaningful experiential learning opportunities, ultimately putting them on a path into the workplace, and we’re satisfied to see additional investments into the Career Ready Fund, alongside a commitment to strengthen partnerships with local employers.”

Ryan Deshpande, Director of OUSA and McMaster University student on international students:

“The consideration of international students in the 2018 budget is promising, but students need to see a tangible commitment to regulate costs for international students, especially tuition and health care. Unregulated tuition and high costs of healthcare for international students presents a barrier to their success in our education system. In addition, campus and community supports for international students need to be funded as the populations of international students at Ontario’s universities continues to grow. OUSA is excited to see the details of the strategy and work with the government to implement future funding to best support our international students.”

Sophie Helpard, Executive Director of OUSA on the Ontario Student Assistance Program:

“Since Budget 2016, the Ontario Student Assistance Program has undergone remarkable transformation. Significant investments have impacted access of low and middle-income students in Ontario, as well as underrepresented populations in the system. New developments such as substantial changes to parental and spousal contributions, as well as the implementation of net-billing may seem small, but stand to make a real impact on the lives of students.”

OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations a cross Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario. To achieve this vision we’ve come together to develop solutions to challenges facing higher education, build broad consensus for our policy options, and lobby government to implement them.

Sophie Helpard
Executive Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
[email protected]