The needs of the student are always at the forefront of post-secondary debate. The changing post-secondary landscape has seen an increase in enrollments, greater satisfaction rates, and more graduates than ever before.
10 years after his initial Report, former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae made an appearance in London to take part in an open forum discussion, orchestrated by Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 110. Much of the crowd on hand featured current and former college employees who could speak directly towards the past, present, and future of Ontario’s college structure.
The Rae Report focused on improving post-secondary education, but had some recommendations that specifically concerned the “college mandate.” One was the need to “supply occupational and labour market needs as well as provide room for institutional evolution and degree provision.” Another was a need to focus on apprenticeships, which the colleges “have a particularly important role.” The final recommendation pertained to based funding, where underfunding “was more pronounced for the colleges than for the universities.”
Many of the complaints focused on the changes needed to the part-time faculty. According to the report, written by Mary Catharine Lennon, Michael L. Skolnik, and Glen A. Jones, which highlighted the results found after the Rae Report’s publishing in 2004, student enrolment has jumped 21 percent, while total faculty has risen 29.7 percent. Within that jump in faculty, 47.1 percent was in part-time faculty.
Within Fanshawe College, nearly 62 percent of the faculty operates on a part-time basis, often without the proper working conditions such as an office to work in. This sentiment was echoed from other college representatives, ranging from Sault College to Humber. For students, this means less time with faculty outside of the classroom.
Another worry from the audience was the changing demographics of students set to enter the college student body. OPSEU President for Local 110, Darryl Bedford, pointed directly to Northern and Western Ontario as places where a dwindling population could see decreases in enrollment. Colleges have invested in the international community to help combat these losses.
While the panel acted as only a discussion, the hope is that some of the ideas shared can be implemented in order to help fix a system that is in need of real investment. Bedford mentions the rising costs that students face, as well as teachers taking on a greater load than ever before.
OPSEU has taken a much needed step to bring to light many of the problems the post-secondary education system is facing, and has faced for the past 10 years. The hope is that as more students become aware of the funding problem that has limited the impact teachers can have in the classroom, change will soon come from the government to fund one of the provinces greatest resources.