Making the grade: How our next government can boost post-secondary education

As students return to campuses across Canada, the future of quality post-secondary public education is uncertain as the pandemic continues to disrupt students and staff. 

Last year,  educators – including tens of thousands of PSAC members – had to quickly pivot to deliver their courses remotely, while others worried about student housing and workplace safety. 

Meanwhile, an ongoing lack of stable core funding and insufficient support for research have both resulted in a strained post-secondary education sector. Unfortunately, the injections of short-term funding to meet urgent research needs during the pandemic just haven’t cut it. 

Canada needs a government that will reduce precarious employment, increase research funding, and invest in education for all.  

Pledge to vote for a candidate that will maintain a high-quality, affordable, and accessible post-secondary education system.  

Urgent need for stable funding

The last time the federal government increased core post-secondary education funding was in 2008. To put that into perspective, that’s the same year the stock market crashed, triggering a global recession, and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won a third consecutive minority government. 

A lot has changed since then, but funding for post-secondary education has remained stagnant. 

In April, after decades of cuts to post-secondary education, Laurentian University was forced to reduce its programming, resulting in the loss of hundreds of good jobs. 

This funding strain across the sector means a majority of recent faculty hires have been contract-based instead of full-time, increasing precarious employment and driving wages down. 

There has also been a serious shortage of public research funding, which has direct impacts on Canada’s ability to respond to public health emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of robust public funding for post-secondary research, and major public investments are needed to ensure we aren’t caught off guard again.

The Education for All coalition – which PSAC supports – recently called for a minimum federal transfer to the provinces of $3 billion, ensuring that funding is transparent, accountable, and keeps up with inflation and enrolment growth. 

Education for all

Access to education is out of reach for many students, particularly low-income students, those living with disabilities, and students from Indigenous, Black, Asian, and other racialized communities. 
To give you a sense of how inaccessible higher learning has become in Canada, average domestic undergraduate tuition has increased by a whopping 215 per cent since 1980, accounting for inflation. 

We need a government that will eliminate interest on student loans while expanding grants and working towards the elimination of tuition fees.

O’Toole gets a failing grade on the education sector 

Post-secondary education is not a priority for Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives. They do not even mention tuition in their platform, and all they propose are modest grants for people who want job training. 

This falls woefully short of what Canadians need. 

This election is an opportunity to vote for candidates that will drastically change post-secondary education by boosting direct federal funding for post-secondary education, reducing student debt and providing education for all.



September 7, 2021