Saudi Arabian college fiasco tied to underfunding in Ontario

"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." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (02 Feb. 2016) — “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 the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) 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.

Funding has decreased so much, colleges have had to search for funding elsewhere

“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," Wilson said.

Two Ontario campuses have racked up debt rather than made a profit

Algonquin is one of at least three Ontario community colleges, including Niagara and Centennial, that have established campuses in Saudi Arabia to make up for government shortfalls. However, both Algonquin and Niagara have racked up losses.

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."

Wilson stated, “We’re instructors, not speculators."

Per student funding in Ontario is lowest in Canada

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?”

NUPGE 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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