Mounting job losses in the manufacturing sector have forced many Ontarians back to school in order to transition to a knowledge based economy, according to a new report by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

But rising tuition fees, heavy student debt loads and chronic provincial under funding are major obstacles for those wanting to further their education.

“As a result, students are left struggling to make ends meet as tuition fees rose to become the highest in the country and provincial student debt climbed to over $2 billion,” said the report.

The CFS said: “Ontario needs a bold vision for a new post-secondary education framework that invests in students, academic infrastructure and public research. Ensuring a just society means developing a system where no one is left behind, regardless of income, race, gender, ability or social status.”

In a 2009 CFS & CAUT/Harris Decima poll, 90 per cent believed that tuition fees should be reduced or frozen; 59 per cent believed that many people who are qualified to go to university or college don’t have the opportunity; and 82 per cent believed that the primary reason qualified people do not go to college or university is due to the high cost.

The report made several key recommendations including:

         Reduce tuition fees to 2004 levels;

         convert the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) from a loan-based to a grant-based system;

         increase per student funding above the national average;

          remove the barriers that prevent students from transferring credits from one school to another and;

         double the number of Ontario Graduate Scholarships.

 The complete report can be viewed online here.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.