Quality of education was a major talking point at the all-candidates debate in Wallace Hall last night.
Liberal incumbent John Gerretsen, NDP candidate Mary Rita Holland, Progressive Conservative candidate Rodger James and Green Party candidate Robert Kiley presented differing opinions on tuition fees, enrollment expansion in universities and colleges and privatized funding for research in post-secondary institutions.
Candidates discussed their views on affordable post-secondary tuition in the province. Kiley said due to increased tuition this year, the Green Party has plans to create scholarship programs aimed at lower-income families.
James said the Conservative party will look at the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) to make it more readily available to those who need it.
Gerretsen said he wants to offer a reduction of up to 30 per cent for undergraduates’ university tuition.
“Every year, families of five out of six students will save $1,600 per student in university and $700 per student in college,” he said.
The only people who won’t be eligible for a reduction, Gerretsen said, are students whose parents earn more than $160,000 per year.
Holland said the NDP wants to cap tuition fees and freeze them in order to ensure tuition becomes more affordable.
When asked about expanding the number of spots in colleges and universities, Gerretsen, James, and Kiley stood behind increasing enrolment.
Gerretsen said he’s proud the Liberal government has been able to send 200,000 more students into college, university and apprenticeship programs compared to eight years ago.
James said careful reorganization is necessary to deal with increasing class sizes and decreasing numbers of faculty members. Holland, however, disagreed with expanding the number of spaces in universities.
“There’s a lot we can do that doesn’t involve opening spaces and taking their tuition money for people who can’t afford their education,” she said.
Kiley said the current discrepancy between growing class sizes and shrinking faculty numbers can be solved by having donors contribute a minimum of $5,000 per year to funds for post-secondary institutions.
“When we have smaller class sizes, then students are learning the most,” he said.
Candidates were asked about their perspective on funding for international students.
While Gerretsen, Holland and Kiley agreed that international students should be integrated into Canada and allotted funding for scholarships, grants and research, James said the Progressive Conservative party wants to invest in students from Ontario instead.
“[International students] should be funded on their own. Money is money and Ontario doesn’t have a lot of it,” he said.
Both Holland and James were against the privatization of research in post-secondary institutions.
“We can’t have McCain [Foods] sponsoring research in biology and expect that the results are going to be non-biased,” Holland said.
The Liberal and Green party candidates argued that private funds are necessary in order for research to be completed.
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