Federal and provincial governments need to step up to fix serious issues in post-secondary education (PSE), says a new report by the Education For All coalition representing over one million students and workers. In a report released last month, the coalition outlines significant challenges facing the sector and lays out a comprehensive plan to strengthen post-secondary education as key to the pandemic response and recovery.
“The costs of education are rising, while growing inequality and stagnant wages mean that fewer Canadians will be able to access education and training, just when unemployment and economic displacement are high due to the pandemic,” the report notes.
The report also details how PSE is a critical contributor to the social and economic health of Canada and the foundation for Canada’s knowledge advantage, yet it is under considerable strain and in desperate need of intervention.
Public funding now represents less than half of total university revenue in Canada, leaving institutions to somehow make up the difference, often through over-reliance on exploitive international student fees.
Post-secondary costs are out-stripping students’ ability to pay: average domestic undergraduate tuition has increased by 215 per cent since 1980, with average domestic graduate tuition increasing by 247 per cent since 1980, after accounting for inflation.
Since 2006, more than half of faculty hiring has become contract-based, driving precarity up and wages down.
Only 21 per cent of eligible First Nations students are receiving funding for post-secondary education.
The coalition’s Education for All campaign asks the federal government to work with provinces and territories to fix issues of cost, precarity, equity and access — common across Canadian campuses.
“Post-secondary workers, such as post-doctoral fellows and researchers, help secure Canada’s economic development and future innovation. They deserve fair wages and decent working conditions, which means universities and colleges must end their reliance on precarious contract jobs, corporate influence, and privatization. Innovative thinkers should be driving our research priorities, not corporate shareholders”, said PSAC National President Chris Aylward.
Education for All calls for:
Boosting federal funding for PSE through the transfer to the provinces of a minimum of $3 billion, ensuring that funding is transparent, accountable and keeps up with inflation and enrolment growth.
Eliminating interest rates on student loan repayments and expanding grants while working towards the gradual elimination of tuition fees.
Expanding Canada’s research capacity, which has been slowed as a result of the pandemic, through increased research funding and graduate scholarships.
Supporting a workforce renewal strategy that limits the sector’s use of precarious job contracts, contracting out and privatization.
The Education for All campaign is a joint initiative of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the National Union of Public and General Employees.
PSAC represents 27,000 members working at 25 post-secondary institutions across the country. These members are teaching assistants, research assistants, research associates, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, instructors, residence advisors, floor fellows, invigilators and administrators. These members are organized into 61 bargaining units directly chartered by PSAC.