PC Paths Prepares 21st Century Students
It’s the time of year where university and college-aged students and their parents are preparing to pack up their cars and trucks and head off to campus. While this is a turning point in any young adult’s life, moving to a different city or town can cause some apprehension. What is it going to be like living on my own? What will I major in? Will I get a job when I am done? And for parents, the big question is: how am I going to help my support my children? And if you are a student returning to school this fall, you know these questions all too well.
The Ontario PC Party recognizes there are challenges to obtaining a post-secondary education, especially in these times of fiscal restraint and record job losses. We need to work to ensure students are ready for a post-secondary education, and that we can help prepare them for the job requirements of this century.
Labour statistics show that by 2020, Canada will be facing a shortage of nearly 1 million workers. Here in Ontario, data shows that by 2031, the projected shortfall of workers could be as high as 1.8 million. This is why it is important that today we put the focus on training our youth to meet the needs of the workforce over the next seven to fifteen years. This is why the Ontario PC’s have released Paths to Prosperity: Higher Learning for Better Jobs, a discussion paper focussed on post-secondary education. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities spends more money each year than the year before, but tuitions are getting higher and job prospects are not improving. This needs to change.
Affordability is an ongoing issue for college and university students. At the same time, colleges and universities are also struggling to afford the increased costs associated with running their institutions. I have heard from students and parents in my office who are frustrated that they do not qualify for the Ontario Tuition Grant. In fact, more than two-thirds of Ontario post-secondary students do not qualify. The grant was sold as a policy that would help all students receive 30 percent relief on their tuition. In reality, it is not an across the board reduction on tuition and many students feel they were sold a false bill of goods. And to afford this grant, the government actually cut another series of grants, which encompass more students. We think the better route to go would be a “No Student is Left Behind” policy, which empowers colleges and universities to administer a student financial aid system that grows as tuition increases.
72 percent of an Ontario university’s expenditures are on salaries and benefits. Nine percent is spent on scholarships and bursaries. We must look at ways to find efficiencies so that students are getting the best opportunities.
We need to make the best of a student’s time and dollar by encouraging things like Dual Credit Programs, which allow students to take courses in high school that satisfy both high school and college credits. This allows students to better define a career path, and gives them a leg up with college credits. The PC’s would also encourage more regional relationships with colleges and universities, so the training is where the jobs are located. We would improve the credit transfer system by using online education to create bridging courses between institutions so that students who take courses at one institution can be brought up to speed at another, smoothing the transition. The Ontario PC’s would encourage colleges to offer applied three-year degrees, which allow students to get into the workforce faster.
Our priorities need to include creating more paths for college students, improving on specific outcomes such as student retention and graduation rates, and creating new programs and learning hubs that meet the needs of a twenty-first century economy.
To address education in rural and remote areas, we need to leverage more online education opportunities—no matter where you live; you deserve access to a high quality education. Not only is online learning an innovative way to gain knowledge, but we are seeing real job market value from it.
The bottom line is that better college and university programs will lead to better jobs. As Ontario is in the midst of an unprecedented job crisis and it is our responsibility to come up with solutions to address the problem. We owe it to students to get them to a place they want to be—a gainfully employed member of the Ontario workforce. We owe it to the people of Ontario who are counting on our college and university students to be the drivers of future economic growth. The Ontario PC’s have a plan to do that. I encourage you to take a few moments and read our Paths to Prosperity at www.ontariopc.com/paths.