April 28, 2022
OUSA responds to the 2022 Ontario Budget
TORONTO - Today, the Ontario government released Ontario’s Plan to Build, the 2022 Ontario Budget. This budget is focused on the province’s economic recovery and includes investments to help keep Ontario safe and healthy. Post-secondary education is critical to the future of Ontario and to support our economic recovery, yet there is a noticeable lack of targeted investments to adequately support these students, and the sector as a whole. In order to address the challenges students are currently facing, OUSA will continue to ask for comprehensive student financial assistance, proactive sexual and gender-based violence services, targeted student mental health funding, and increased operating funding to the post-secondary sector.
“The past two years have been an uncertain time for students across Ontario, underscoring the urgent attention needed to address student concerns around the affordability and quality of their post-secondary education,” said Eunice Oladejo, OUSA President and Vice-President External Affairs at the University Students’ Council at Western University. “Students deserve support as they continue to navigate constant changes posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are disappointed that the government has not prioritized this support in the new budget.”
The affordability of post-secondary education continues to be a major barrier for students to accessing university, especially within the context of a global pandemic. Students need direct financial support and OUSA has consistently advocated for the provincial government to invest in enhancements to OSAP and reshape repayment structures by eliminating interest on loans and extending the grace period to 2 years. We are concerned to see no mention of OSAP funding in the 2022 budget, and while the budget reiterates the tuition freeze for the 2022-23 year, this is simply not enough. Students require increased investments into OSAP to actively support their financial needs as they recover from COVID-19.
OUSA is also discouraged by the lack of support towards addressing sexual and gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses. This has been an ongoing crisis, and the past year only amplified students’ concerns and urgent calls to action. Known as the Red Zone, students are most at-risk for sexual and gender-based violence in the first 8 weeks of the school year, particularly in their first year. Thus, proactive interventions are vital to ensure that students enter post-secondary with a foundational knowledge and sustainable attitudes on sexual health. It is equally important that campus resources are bridged to community-based supports in order to facilitate a trauma-informed, integrated model of care. We urge the provincial government to modify K-12 sexual health curricula in all subject areas, as well as provide grant funding to community-based services.
OUSA also recognizes the importance of a comprehensive mental health strategy and is pleased to see the government is committing an additional $204M to expand mental health services in Ontario. However, there is no mention of the challenges faced by post-secondary students with regards to mental wellness and service provision. We ask that the government dedicate a portion of this funding to community-based mental health providers to supply culturally-relevant and diverse counselling and support to post-secondary students.
Ultimately, higher investments are needed to ensure sustainability for Ontario’s post-secondary sector. Operating grants to universities have remained stagnant for many years, and concerningly, this forces institutions to rely on international tuition to generate this gap in revenue. Not only is this current funding model financially unsustainable for the sector, it is students who shoulder the burden of these costs. OUSA urges the provincial government to increase operating grants to post-secondary institutions in order to promote a more viable, well-positioned sector.
OUSA will continue to advocate for increased government support towards student financial aid, student mental health, sexual and gender-based violence, and general sector sustainability, recognizing that these are the top priorities for our students. To learn more about why these are students’ top priorities and what the provincial government can do to better support students, read our full budget submission here: https://www.ousa.ca/ousa_pre_budget_submission_2022.
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About: OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
Communications and Operations Coordinator
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
416-341-9948 | [email protected]