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Students and employees should not be paying the price for college underfunding

Toronto – A crisis of chronic government underfunding is plaguing Ontario’s colleges, which need to stop ignoring the concerns of their employees, says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

College employees provide vital assistance to international students academically, culturally and locally by providing many services in and out of the classroomThey provide students with advice on finances/banking, obtaining groceries, referrals to health clinics and counsellors, as well as immigration/employment support.

Having international students in our colleges is a win-win that makes a better learning environment for our domestic students.

“Ontario’s colleges need to start putting the well-being and priorities of their students and employees before profits,” said Thomas. “Colleges are relying too much on the tuition and fees they charge to international students when what they really need is increased stable funding from the province.”

OPSEU represents employees at colleges across the province. Last year, the Ford government, irresponsibly and illegally cancelled the College Task Force that was meant to address issues affecting the future of our college system. To add insult to injury, the Ford government announced earlier this year it would be tying college budgets to a performance based funding model. 

Thomas points to a series published last month in The Toronto Star on international students coming to Ontario to study at the province’s 24 publicly-funded colleges. The series revealed that colleges are relying too heavily on the huge fees that international students pay to study in Ontario to fund their programs and campuses, but they don’t re-invest adequate money into adequate ongoing supports that international students need and deserve.

“International students are coming here and they are not being supported properly,” said Thomas. “Imagine going to another country to study and you have little or no support to help you navigate a new country, education system and culture. How are international students expected to succeed without support? They’re being set up to fail.”

OPSEU is calling on the province’s colleges to reach out to their employees and work with them to ensure a world class and publicly-funded college system that benefits both domestic and international students.

“Students and employees at Ontario’s colleges will not be able to thrive without proper funding from the province,” said Thomas.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931.