NUSU Statement on Education
The Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU) has expressed disappointment in the recent news of changes to education from the provincial government.
Since the announcement in January regarding the new tuition framework for Ontario universities, many student unions and students have been concerned about the future of education. This matter was furthered by the changes to elementary and secondary education.
Of particular concern for our students is the removal of the interest-free grace period, the changes to OSAP, services fees opt-out, as well as the grant to loan ratio. By significantly lowering the qualifying family income threshold, and shifting the focus from grants to loans, the provincial government is limiting accessibility and imposing a greater burden of debt on students. Many of our students have expressed that they feel they are no longer able to pursue a postgraduate degree due to the lack of grants now offered.
Minister Fullerton has stated that her ministry has heard directly from numerous groups regarding the changes to elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools. We have been unable to find which groups have been consulted and in what format their feedback was received. We are worried that the voice of the north has been muted and the difference in needs to our southern counterparts has not been considered.
We stand with the high school students voicing their concerns about the proposed changes. A large portion of Nipissing University’s population are concurrent, consecutive, or Faculty of Education students. These individuals are hoping to spend their lives working with youth and positively contributing to this province, yet their future is now uncertain as there will be a reduction in jobs as well as support through educational assistants. The increased class sizes and mandatory online courses will not only impair learning for students that require one-on-one interaction, but it will also severely lower the number of teaching positions available. This will lead to fewer extra-curricular activities being offered both in sports and in the arts.
These changes also impact those of our students who are parents. The mandatory online classes will increase the financial barrier that many have when it comes to education. Although these classes will still be part of the high school curriculum, those who do not have access to personal computers or internet at home, will struggle to complete the assignments.
To see funding being taken away from schools, the very institutions that support and shape the future of this province, is a concern. This is exacerbated by the fact that millions of dollars are now being funnelled into programs such as horse racing. This is telling the youth of Ontario that their education and future is less important than these programs.
Although we understand that cuts must be made to lower the deficit, these cuts should not be made on the backs of educators or students. We implore Minister Fedeli and Minister Fullerton to engage with educational bodies, students and parents in an open and transparent forum, to see the long-term effects of their changes.