November 15, 2023
TORONTO - The Blue Ribbon Panel has released their final report with recommendations to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on how to improve the financial viability of the post-secondary sector while considering student affordability and success. Earlier this year, OUSA provided a written submission to the Panel and was also invited to a virtual consultation to highlight student-centred recommendations on a variety of topics such as tuition, OSAP, government grants, and international students. Our submission can be found here.
OUSA is pleased by the Panel’s recommendation to increase per-student funding. Notably, the initial 10% increase does not amount to what we would like to see government funding levels be at, as this would not resolve the disproportionate contributions to operating revenue from students through tuition compared to contributions from government grants. Post-secondary institutions are facing tremendous deficits and financial pressures to cater to growing enrollment in higher education, and additional funding through operating grants is critical to enhance student program delivery, services, and supports.
While OUSA also appreciates the recommendation to increase OSAP grants for low-income students, we would have liked to see more attention on the ways OSAP could be improved for recipients such as the elimination of interest on loans and extending the 2-year grace period for repayment. Furthermore, an increase in OSAP grants does not offer assistance completely through grants, and OUSA would like to see disbursement for low-income students through this avenue entirely. We welcome the recommendation from the panel for more institutional financial aid, and are looking forward to seeing how the Ministry may facilitate this.
We are concerned about the Panel’s recommendation to increase tuition. In a time where the cost-of-living is out of grasp for many students, increases to tuition will impose a heavy financial burden especially if the aforementioned operating grants and OSAP funding measures are not adequately changed to meet student need. While we understand increasing tuition will help finance institutions, OUSA strongly believes higher per-student funding and OSAP changes are necessary to mitigate the effects of this tuition increase.
“Overall, the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel offer a mix of beneficial and worrisome options for student affordability and access,” said Vivian Chiem, President of OUSA. “Many of the issues students are currently struggling with, like housing, food insecurity, and mental health, all stem from affordability barriers. Post-secondary education is one of the biggest expenses a student can have and the Panel’s recommendations offer some solutions on what can be done to address the financial impact of this.”
OUSA would like to thank the Panel for their time and consideration of our submission and meeting, as well as for the work they undertook to participate in numerous consultations and internal discussions. As the Ministry of Colleges and Universities reviews the report and determines their next steps, we urge Minister Dunlop to consider the barriers that inhibit students from pursuing an affordable and high-quality post-secondary education. The publication of this report comes at a pivotal time, when student and institutional finances are struggling and in need of urgent intervention. The Ministry can play an important role to reshape the sector and has an opportunity to enact various changes that can benefit students’ access and retention in post-secondary education. We are hopeful that the provincial government will prioritize student concerns as they consider the Panel’s recommendations, and we welcome further collaboration to ensure this can be accomplished.
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OUSA represents the interests of 160,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at nine student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
Tiffany Li Wu
Operations & Communications Coordinator
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance