Federal and Provincial Budget Recommendations: Investment in Post-Secondary Education is Key to Economic Recovery from Pandemic

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WUSA
Fri, 03/19/2021 - 04:00

WUSA represents more than 35,000 University of Waterloo students and it is with these students in mind that it has put forth its 2021 Federal Budget recommendations and Provincial Budget recommendations for the government. 

The two budgets are separate and will decide how investments are made to better the country, as well as the province of Ontario.  

The common justification for investment in both sets of recommendations is that post-secondary students will be the graduates who will support Canada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provincial Budget 2021 Recommendations  

These 4 recommendations focus on: 

  1. Student Financial Aid: The government should increase needs-based grants and put a hold on student debt and interest payments to address students’ financial concerns during this time. 
  2. Quality of Education: The tuition freeze needs to be continued however it needs to include increased funding for institutions to ensure high-quailty education. There also needs to be research funded through the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario to achieve high-quality remote delivery. 
  3. Equity on Campus: Equity staff, programs and services at post-secondary institutions need to be funded through equity grants to ensure the creation and ongoing support of these positions. 
  4. Students in Our Community: Funding needs to be allocated to actualization of the GO Rail expansion on the Kitchener line as promised and the development of transition programming for students needs to be supported.  

WUSA submits our own budget submission to address the specific needs of UW students. This helps amplify and reinforce the budget submissions made by our external advocacy organization, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. When it comes to our recommendations, all four focus areas have clear impacts on students studying at the University of Waterloo. This year, the 2-year unfunded tuition freeze is scheduled to end—a freeze that will impact quality of education. With that in mind, we wanted to ensure you are informed about the tuition freeze and the impacts of it. Interested in learning more, read the full Provincial Budget 2021 consultations document

The Importance of a FUNDED Tuition Freeze 

  • In 2019 the Ontario government implemented a two-year tuition freeze, in addition to a 10% tuition cut and significant cuts to financial aid (OSAP). 
  • Students are dealing with greater financial restraints than we were in 2019 and would be grateful for a continuation of the tuition freeze. 
  • The tuition freeze intended to do a little bit to help every domestic students. It does not apply to international tuition, which leaves international students unprotected to further tuition increases. 
  • However, because the tuition fee changes were unfunded (I.e., the financial burden was entirely on post-secondary institutions) and there were simultaneous changes to financial aid, students, especially those who depend on OSAP were worse off. 
  • In order to protect and continue to improve the quality of post-secondary education, a tuition freeze that includes additional funding for universities is essential as university budgets impacts the quality of our learning. 
  • If gov’t is not increasing tuition to keep up with rising costs, then universities will be forced to make difficult decisions about making cuts - which will affect students, and increasing international student tuition.  
  • Therefore, we’re asking the government to extend the tuition freeze and step in and fund universities to ensure we don’t see a drop in quality. 

Federal Budget 2021 Recommendations: 

The 4 recommendations focus on: 

  1. Student Financial Aid: Particularly asking for the grace-period on loans to be extended and for the Canada Student Grant to be increased. 
  2. Supporting International Students: Prioritizing international students by including them in federal employment programs and increasing funding for Student Work Placement opportunities for both international and domestic students.  
  3. Undergraduate Research Opportunities: By increasing funds to expand Undergraduate Student Research awards to students in health, social sciences, and humanities, as well as prioritizing research projects that fulfill a ‘future global challenge’ as identified by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRSC). 
  4. Access for Indigenous Students: Through increased funding for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, Investment in Metis Nation and Inuit Post-Secondary Strategy to remove barriers, as well increased funding for Indigenous students wanting to pursue high-social-impact fields such as healthcare and education.  

For this submission, we partnered with our federal advocacy partner, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU), to directly echo their submission which aligns closely with UW students' needs. All four recommendations focus on investing in post-secondary students in the wake of COVID-19, specifically the importance of student financial aid. We know that student financial aid in the form of grants and debt relief will be critical in ensuring that students are not overcome with debt after graduation and are able to contribute to the larger society as Canada recovers from the pandemic. We’ve highlighted some of the key points below related to financial aid to help inform you better. Interested in learning more, read the full Federal Budget 2021 consultations document.  

The Most Effective Financial Aid  

  • A $1200 increase in student financial aid is a Liberal platform promise we want to hold them to  
  • The $1200 increase specifically was not implemented though the government made significant increases for COVID 
  • Calling for an ongoing increase to grants to support students in addition to the extension on the grace-period for loan repayment 
  • We want to see this increase because it would benefit and impact all students. BUT increases in targeted financial aid are necessary to improve access to post-secondary education. Ie. Financial aid for these who need it most – those who couldn’t afford PSE otherwise.