Treat post-secondary funding as economic stimulus

Chronic government underfunding has created a problem for Canadian post-secondary institutions and their students.

Ottawa (3 Nov. 2009) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) represents tens of thousands of community college workers across Canada who know first hand how education drives innovation and the economy.

"It is these workers who will retrain workers losing their jobs in the current recession, as well as train the workforce of the future," says NUPGE president James Clancy.  

In the Learn Canada 2020 declaration, provincial and territorial ministers of education emphasize “the direct link between a well-educated population and (1) a vibrant knowledge-based economy in the 21st century, (2) a socially progressive, sustainable society, and (3) enhanced personal growth opportunities for all Canadians.”

"Our governments make a lot of noise about infrastructure spending for post-secondary institutions but the reality is that years of underfunding has shifted the financial burden onto student's shoulders," says Clancy. 

"We need to invest in the physical infrastructure but we also need to make investments that will ensure we have a high quality and accessible system of post-secondary education, especially during a recession when most students and families have fewer resources to pay for education."

Tuition fees increased 3.6% over the past year, according to Statistics Canada's university tuition study released this October. The average annual price paid by undergraduate students in Canada is $4,917.

In Ontario, students cover 45% to 50% of the operating budget for the schools they attend. This is because federal budget cuts in the early 1990s substantially reduced transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education, resulting in a post-secondary education funding gap of nearly $4 billion across Canada.

Despite the shaky job market for graduates during the recession, or because of it, new enrollment figures show increases for universities, colleges and apprenticeship programs alike.

Students and faculty are concerned that their institutions are not in a position to deliver what they promise – as cuts are made to already underfunded schools.

Katherine Giroux-Bougard, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, says many disillusioned job seekers return to school and take on bigger debt loads.

Giroux-Bougard says student debts can have negative repercussions on the economy because students in debt are less likely to graduate, start a family or purchase homes and cars.

"When we're looking at rebuilding our economy, at getting out of this recession, high debt loads are going to make that more difficult," she said.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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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