TORONTO – “If the government funded colleges properly, they wouldn’t be gambling on all-male campuses in one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes.” With these words, Jack Wilson, Vice‑President of OPSEU Local 415 and a professor at Algonquin College, laid the blame for the Ontario colleges’ latest controversial ventures squarely at the feet of the Wynne government.
“The government’s share of college funding has gone down from 75 per cent to 49 per cent over the years, even as the community college system has grown by leaps and bounds,” explained Wilson. “Increasing sky‑high tuition even more would lock out families of modest means. So every year, we’re forced to find more and more revenue through other means, just to keep our doors open.
“When your back’s against the wall, options are considered that would have been unthinkable before.”
Algonquin and Niagara are two community colleges that have established campuses in Saudi Arabia to make up for government shortfalls. However, both colleges have racked up losses. Centennial College has announced it will not renew the apprenticeship training contract it has with General Motors Middle East in the kingdom.
Speaking about Algonquin’s campus in Jazan, Wilson said there had been giddy talk of a revenue windfall. “When first discussed, Jazan was projected to bring in $100 million over five years. That figure was whittled down to $20 million. Now it’s $4.4 million. Last year, the campus lost almost $1.5 million.
“We’re instructors, not speculators.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas threw his support behind Wilson and the colleges’ plea for adequate, stable government funding. “The Liberals claim they’ve jacked up college funding since 2003. But funding per student is down 18 per cent since 2008. We’re dead last in Canada. Meanwhile, the demands on colleges are through the roof. It’s no wonder they’re desperate.
“We rely on community colleges to keep Ontario’s economy competitive. Will the Liberals ever get it through their heads that the key to prosperity is excellent public education, in Ontario, for all Ontarians – not half‑baked schemes in Saudi Arabia?”
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