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Ontario parents are worried their children wont be able to get into college or university, mainly because of the costs, said Michael Doucet, Vice-President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

An Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by members of the Postsecondary Education Coalition, released today, shows that 70 per cent of Ontario parents are concerned (43 per cent very concerned) that their kids may not be able to attend university or college, even if they are qualified and choose to do so. For the vast majority of parents, cost (79%) is the over-riding factor as to why they are concerned.

Further, all respondents were asked about their views on what should be done with respect to the impending double cohort the echo boom of students who will be applying to colleges and universities over the next number of years. It is clear that this large influx of eligible students will place a strain on the priorities of the educational institution infrastructure. When asked to choose between four options which could be implemented to accommodate this large increase in the number of qualified student applications, two thirds (64%) chose the increase in provincial government funding for universities and colleges, even though this may result in a cancellation of planned tax cuts or reduced government spending in other areas. Only 16% chose the establishment of private universities and colleges throughout the province, and smaller proportions chose raising student entrance requirements to universities and colleges to restrict the number of students admitted (12%) and increasing student tuition fees to universities and colleges (6%).

The release of the findings of this poll today comes on the heels of an Ipsos-Reid poll released on Friday, May 4, 2001 which shows that education ranks as the second most important issue on the public agenda, only 1% behind the health care issue.

People are telling us that when they are given their independent choice as to what option should be pursued by the government, they would rather see an investment in postsecondary education even at the expense of further tax cuts, said Doucet. The poll shows that this even includes 53 % of decided PC voters who want more provincial funding for universities and colleges, even if it means canceling tax cuts or reducing spending in other areas.

Thats a wake-up call if ever there was one, said Erin George, Ontario Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students. With tuition fee hikes at 60 % over the past five years in regulated programs and by as much as 521% in some deregulated programs, there is little doubt as to why parents and students are as concerned as they are over the rising cost of a university education.

The results of the poll are also a reflection of what the governments own advisory bodies, including the most recent report in March by the Investing in Students Task Force, have called for, which is new public investment in the system to ensure that postsecondary education is kept affordable, said Brian OKeefe, Ontario Division, CUPE.

There is a tremendous need to invest in the postsecondary system now, said OKeefe. The demands of increasing enrolment, faculty retirements, and high student/faculty ratios require an increase to base operating grants of $500 million over the next four years.

The deadline to respond is now. Wednesdays Ontario Budget must include major new dollars for our colleges and universities. An increase of 2 or 3 per cent will not keep up to inflation and it wont touch the needs we have outlined. And our polling says that the public is prepared to pay, said Leah Casselman, President, OPSEU.

The Ipsos-Reid poll was commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU); and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

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For further information please contact the following Coalition spokespersons:
Michael Doucet, Vice-President, OCUFA,
(416) 979-2117 ext. 30;
Erin George, Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students Ontario
(416) 925-3825 or (416)707-0349;
Katie FitzRandoph, Communications, OPSEU,
(416) 443-8888;
Mary Catherine McCarthy, National Representative, CUPE,
(416) 292-3999 ext. 258.

The poll was conducted between April 16th and April 25th, 2001 among 1,000 randomly selected adult Ontarians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Ontario population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were statistically weighted to ensure the samples regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual Ontario population according to the 1996 Census data. The Ipsos-Reid poll results can be accessed at: ipsos-reid.com/media/content/PRE_REL.cfm

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