Ensuring the future of the province’s creative economy will require a serious, well-planned and well-delivered investment in post-secondary education by the Ontario government, according to a new report on higher education.
The report released Monday by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) said that in order for Ontario to play a leading role in the knowledge economy, the government must first create an affordable, accessible, post secondary education system.
“This task is no small feat, but the possible benefits to society are too great to let this opportunity pass,” said the report.
The OUSA said that greater public investment leads to increased participation rates and the overall quality of education, which benefits the Ontario economy and helps fight poverty.
But few members of the public are aware of these benefits, the report said.
In 2004, TD Bank Group published a report demonstrating that a university or college diploma would lead to a 12 to 28 per cent return on investment for the student.
The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF) found that, over 40 years, a bachelor’s degree holder in Ontario will earn $769,720 more than someone with only a high school education.
“But as jurisdictions around the world rapidly increase their educational attainment, Ontario’s competitive advantage is diminishing,” said the OUSA, which was formed in 1992 to more effectively lobby the provincial government for change.
“We must immediately redouble our efforts to include more Ontarians in the system if we hope to remain globally competitive.”
The OUSA argued that plans to increase participation rates in post secondary education means reaching out to low-income students, rural and northern students, students with disabilities, and students whose parents have no post-secondary credential.
“If not, we risk leaving them out of future prosperity,” said the OUSA.
Yet research shows that little has been done in making access more equitable.
“Youth from higher-income families are still twice as likely to go to university as are those from lower-income families,” said the CMSF.
In addition to the need to increase Ontario's post-secondary attainment rate, the OUSA said the government needs to reduce student faculty ratios, which are currently 39 per cent higher than the United States.
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