March 24, 2023
OUSA responds to the 2023 Ontario Budget
TORONTO - Yesterday, the Ontario government released Building a Strong Ontario, the 2023 Ontario Budget. This budget shifts away from limited COVID-19 funding and focuses on investments that work towards viable economic stability for the province in the coming years. Students and recent graduates are critical to the future of Ontario’s economic growth, yet there is a noticeable lack of targeted investments to adequately support these students amid increased costs of living and on-campus activities. 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.
“As Ontario moves towards economic recovery, OUSA urges the provincial government to take student perspectives on post-secondary affordability and quality into consideration,” said Jessica Look, OUSA President and Vice-President External Affairs at the University Students’ Council at Western University. “Students are an invaluable part of Ontario’s economy and deserve support as they navigate post-secondary education amidst economic uncertainty and rising costs of living. 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 as we move towards a post-pandemic world. For the second year in a row, we are concerned to see no mention of OSAP funding in the 2023 budget as students need direct financial support. OUSA has consistently advocated for the provincial government to enhance OSAP by increasing funding towards the program and making policy changes that directly support students, such as extending the grace period to 2 years and eliminating academic probation.
OUSA is also discouraged by the lack of support towards addressing sexual and gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses which remains a significant issue for students. Although we appreciate recent advancements with the implementation of Bill 26, this policy approach is still reactionary and does not work to improve the culture around sexual violence on campus. Thus, proactive interventions are vital to ensure that students enter post-secondary with a foundational knowledge and sustainable attitudes on sexual health. This includes modifying the K-12 sexual health curricula in all subject areas, as well as committing to ongoing, cyclical research that provides relevant information about sexual violence on post-secondary campuses to inform policy changes.
OUSA is pleased to see that the provincial government is providing an additional $425M to support mental health and addiction services in Ontario. Moreover, as advocated by OUSA previously, we recognize the merit in increasing funding for community-based mental health providers. While this would allow students to access services within their communities, OUSA is disappointed to see that there is no mention of targeted funding for on-campus student mental health services. As such, we ask the government to streamline their efforts in strengthening partnerships of community-based service providers with post-secondary institutes.
Ultimately, higher investments are needed to ensure sustainability for Ontario’s post-secondary sector. In this budget, we are concerned to see that the province has underspent in the post-secondary sector over the past fiscal year. For many years, operating grants to universities have remained unchanged and this places a heavy burden on international student tuition to supplement this gap in revenue. This current funding model is financially unsustainable for the sector and inherently downloads the costs of funding institutions onto students. OUSA urges the provincial government to increase operating grants to post-secondary institutions in order to better balance the cost-sharing model and offer relief for students, particularly international students.
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_budget_submission_23
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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.
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
416-341-9948 | [email protected]