March 24, 2021
OUSA responds to the 2021 Ontario Budget
TORONTO - Today, the Ontario government released Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy. 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 post-secondary students. In order to address the challenges students are currently facing, OUSA will continue to ask for increased financial assistance, work-integrated learning opportunities, and ongoing mental health supports.
“Post-secondary students in Ontario have had to adapt to a fully online school year, while dealing with a lot of uncertainty about our futures,” said Julia Pereira, OUSA President and Vice-President University Affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union. “We are disappointed that the government has not addressed student concerns about the quality of education and affordability of university.”
Prior to COVID-19, students’ voiced concerns around affordability and financial challenges to accessing university. These concerns have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Students need direct financial support and OUSA has consistently advocated for the provincial government to invest in enhancements to OSAP and the Indigenous Student Bursary Program. While OUSA recognizes last week’s expansion of OSAP to include micro-credential programs, this does not address the pressing financial concerns faced by current undergraduate students.
OUSA also recognizes that the provincial government has invested $3.25 million and $7 million in student mental health over the past year. These investments were a good first step, but gaps in mental health service provision and access barriers for students persist, and one-time investments like these are insufficient to address the mental health crisis students are facing. In order to effectively support student mental health, the provincial government should annualize its $3.25 million and $7 million investments and increase funding for culturally relevant and diverse campus mental health care services.
The budget highlights the uneven impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, with young people aged 15-24 experiencing the highest rates of unemployment. The proposed Jobs Training Tax Credit excludes young people, and there are no investments to address these disproportionate unemployment rates. As one avenue to address this, OUSA would like to see greater commitments to, and investments in, work-integrated learning opportunities for students. Work-integrated learning opportunities are linked to better labour market outcomes immediately after graduation, and current students are missing out on this valuable opportunity due to pandemic-related cancellations.
“Students and recent graduates will play an essential role in Ontario’s post-pandemic recovery strategy,” said Mackenzy Metcalfe, OUSA Vice-President Finance and Vice-President External at the University Students’ Council at Western University. “We need targeted supports to ensure students are able to afford university, graduate, and be able to contribute to rebuilding Ontario’s economy.”
OUSA will continue to advocate for increased government support in student financial aid, work-integrated learning, and mental health, 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/budget_submission_21.
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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]