The province must step in to protect educational excellence

OPSEU/SEFPO faculty and staff at all 24 public colleges and 16 universities are committed to providing quality education and critical student services and supports.

We share a common cause with students, both domestic and international. We believe that all levels of government must make sure that applicants, students and graduates have the supports they need to succeed in their studies, including access to housing.

We reject the current xenophobic discourse scapegoating international students as the cause of the housing crisis. Let’s be clear about what is causing the housing crisis: decades of inadequate investment in housing, including public and co-operative housing, by all levels of government, as well as housing market speculation and price gouging in the housing and rental markets. Our housing crisis was not caused by international students.

The federal government’s decision on international students will impact the income of Ontario’s public colleges and universities, which makes it even more important that provincial funding be restored to appropriate levels at long last.

So far, the Ontario government has refused to do so. What is Premier Doug Ford waiting for?

  • Ontario funds colleges on a per-student basis at just 44% of the rate of other provinces.
  • Ontario funds universities on a per-student basis at just 57% of the rate of other provinces.

This is abysmal.

The severe underfunding by the province is the root of the crisis.

As a start, Ontario should raise per-student funding to the average level of other provinces.

Once operating funding is at sustainable levels, then it should be up to individual institutions to determine the appropriate number of international students to welcome to their home campuses.

The point is these determinations must be driven by educational excellence not by financial pressures.

Secondly, we need an end to the problematic partnerships between public and private colleges. Not merely a moratorium on new public-private partnerships, but a winding down of the existing ones. Everyone from the Auditor General of Ontario to the federal Immigration minister has criticized these arrangements.

In our view, students are getting diplomas under false pretences. Quality assurance is absent when international students get a diploma from a public college without ever studying with a professor or receiving support from staff from that college.

Our experience as staff and faculty is that international and domestic students give so much to the life of our institutions and communities.

Public colleges and universities have a great track record of providing quality education that leads to rewarding careers for students and a skilled workforce for our local, regional and provincial economy. But all of us, students, staff and faculty, are being squeezed by the severe lack of funding. We need a provincial government that believes in educational excellence and funds the system accordingly.