Students across Ontario are participating in “Time Out” (#timeoutON), a campaign asking for a tuition freeze to be implemented in Ontario’s next tuition framework, which will be established in 2016-2017. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is rallying students to ask the provincial government for a “funded freeze”. This means that yearly average tuition increases of 3% and 5% would no longer be allowed; the loss in tuition revenue would be fully subsidized by increased provincial investment in universities, ensuring that quality is not impacted. The funded freeze would reduce student debt and restore public investment in education.
Students are concerned that tuition hikes are ballooning at rates that outpace inflation, average income, or other key indicators of reasonable growth. Over the past decade in Ontario, average tuition has risen by $2658.7. If average tuition had risen by inflation, this increase would have only been $766.8: just a third of the actual uptick.
“Tuition is not only rising, it’s rising faster than inflation, faster than government contributions, and faster than students can afford to pay,” says Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. “By saying ‘time out’, we’re saying let’s hit pause; stopping students from taking on even more debt, allowing the market to catch up, and helping restore public higher education in Ontario.”
The last twenty years have seen tuition soar while government contributions waned in proportion. In 1992, students paid for 19% of university operating budgets. By 2012, students paid for 51% of university operating budgets. Since that time, Ontario has had a publically assisted, not publically funded, education system – a key distinction the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has acknowledged in subsequent publications.
“Quite simply, we’ve crossed an important line. The end of public higher education in Ontario is not just symbolically significant, it has a real financial impact on young people’s success,” says Nestico-Semianiw. “If the province wants to reap the proven rewards of a university-educated population, it should be making the necessary investments . Young adults who are saddled with debt have a reduced capacity to make contributions to our economy, whether through investment or innovation.”The campaign will run at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s seven member campuses across Ontario.