Students, instructors differ on budget’s funding for post-secondary education

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan proposes $309 million budget funding for more college and university student places. (duncan1E)

A representative of Ontario’s post-secondary students says the provincial budget lets college and university learners down.

Today, the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty released its 2011 budget. In the Legislature, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the budget allocates $309 million over the next five years increasing the number of student spaces at colleges and universities. It also increases student loans and doubles the income exemption for students.

Nora Loreto, communications and government relations co-ordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), was not satisfied.

“There is no money in it for current students,” she said outside the Legislature. “Access isn’t just about creating space. It’s also about making sure that students can afford their post-secondary education.”

Duncan said the 2011 Ontario budget increases student loans to $360 per week for single students and doubles the income exemption; however, there is no immediate relief for students and families according to Loreto.

“It will do nothing to address the reality of the situation,” she said. “Students in Ontario are now paying the highest tuition in Canada.”

On the other hand, Tony Tilly, chair of Ontario Colleges, is thrilled by the announcement of the $309 million allocation.

“We are really pleased to see the commitments and growth not only in one year but on a multi-year basis,” he said. “We see that post-secondary education is the centerpiece to the budget,”

Tilly, a professor at Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., believes that the 2011 Ontario budget provides the colleges and universities with enough funding in a reasonable time.

“It’s over a five year period and that allows us to approach that systematically over those five years,” Tilly said.

Sam Hammond, president of Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), is also pleased to see the budget increases for post-secondary institutions. But the CFS’s Loreto isn’t convinced

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “We were really hoping that we would hear something that would be good news for students, especially around the cost of post-secondary education.”