I was impressed by the submission presented by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance to the provincial government this week (see the press release here, and the full submission in PDF format here).
The 40-page document contains three main priorities: student financial aid, student success (quality), and tuition. I think the report is eminently reasonable, especially some of the recommendations on quality and access. It also lacks some of the needlessly confrontational language I sometimes see with student advocacy.
Many of the recommendations are obviously Ontario-specific, but there are others that I think would resonate Canada-wide.
Here are their recommendations in terms of student financial assistance:
- Raise the living allowance to at least the poverty line and ensure geographic differences in cost of living are taken into account;
- Raise the in-study income exemption to $100/week, and tie it to future increases in the minimum wage;
- Immediately raise the OSAP maximum to $175 per week with a proportional increase from the federal government;
- Fulfill its promise to provide students with an interest-free year before they must begin repaying their student loans; and,
- Maintain the Ontario Student Opportunity Grant at its current level, and finding the funding through the redirection of the tuition and education tax-credits.
- The provincial government mandate institutions to develop early warning systems to 5 proactively identify and assist those students who may need greater support, especially in their first year;
- The provincial government create envelopes within the funding formula that designate specific amounts per FTE for student support services;
- Funding be designated by the provincial government to found and maintain instructional support programs that encourage innovation in teaching and provide ongoing professional development for Ontario’s post-secondary educators;
- The provincial government develop incentives for all new PhD students to be given formal instruction in teaching methods and practices;
- The provincial government designate targeted funding to support the development of new teaching and learning pedagogy at all institutions and across all disciplines; and,
- Quality teaching be weighted equally with research performance for all decisions relating to hiring, promotion and tenure. A panel consisting of students, government, university and faculty representatives must be established to explore how this standard can be better maintained.
- The provincial government regulate all tuition, including that of international students;
- The Ontario government progress toward restoring a 2:1 cost-sharing model where tuition makes up no more than a third of university operating budgets;
- At minimum, the provincial government must increase university operating grants to the per student national average.
- If tuition increases must occur, then they should go up no more than that of yearly inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.
Did you catch that very last one? I got a bit of flack last week for saying that calls by student groups to cut tuition are dubious, but I notice this group is not advocating that.
I’m not up on the intricacies of university student politics, but my understanding is this group is aligned with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, which I gather is viewed as more “conservative” or, if you wish, less “ideological” than the rival Canadian Federation of Students.