New study reveals that tuition fee concerns overshadow government investments in higher education in Ottawa region
New study reveals that tuition fee concerns overshadow government investments in higher education in Ottawa region

OTTAWA--A majority of Ottawa voters believe tuition fees are too high, according to new poll data released today. At the same time, many respondents indicate skepticism over the Government of Ontario's record on higher education.

According to the results of a new study conducted regarding post-secondary education by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS-O), 55 per cent of respondents think tuition has risen to unacceptable levels, while 65 per cent of those polled believe that the current government has not performed any better than the previous Harris Conservative government in terms of the higher education system.

"It is certainly worrisome for the government that, despite the attention it has devoted to the post-secondary sector, the public remains unconvinced." says Dr. André Turcotte, professor at Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication and chief investigator for this study. "As we approach an election this fall, Dalton McGuinty should remind voters of the important investments his government has made in higher education. More importantly, he should address a front-of-mind issue concern of Ottawa voters – Ontario's high level of tuition fees."Under the Reaching Higher plan, the Liberal Government has invested nearly $6.2 billion in Ontario's universities and colleges. However, tuition has also risen by an average of 28 per cent over the past five years. Ontario now has the highest tuition fees in Canada – an average of $6,307 per year for an undergraduate student and nearly $9,000 for a graduate student.

"This poll shows that the people of Ottawa are deeply concerned about the cost of college and university education," said Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of the CFS-O. "Unless we bring our tuition fees under control, it will be difficult for many students and their families to recognize and appreciate the government's investments."

Other highlights from the survey suggest that Ottawa residents have confidence in universities to manage themselves and deliver a high quality education. Of those polled, 39 per cent think universities should have more freedom in the way they are managed, compared to 12 per cent that think government should be more involved.

The public also has a high level of trust in university professors. In Ottawa, 57% said that they trust university professors most to develop a high-quality post-secondary curriculum, compared to 3% who said government should develop educational programs. Moreover, 48% trust university professors most to develop standards in post-secondary education, compared to 9% who trust government to do so.

"Some observers have suggested that faculty and institutions have not been spending public dollars effectively. These poll results indicate the majority simply do not agree," said Professor Mark Langer, President of OCUFA. "Clearly, Ottawa residents trust universities and university professors to safeguard the quality of higher education."

The results of this study are based on a poll of 1800 Ontarians over the age of 18 conducted between January 5 and 14, 2011. The Ottawa results are based on a sample of 300 residents over the age of 18. The margin of error for the Ottawa sample is +/- 4.1 percentage points within a confidence interval of 95%.

This is the second wave of findings released to date. The first findings were released on Friday January 21, 2011 and examined Ontarians' attitudes towards the internationalization of post-secondary education. More results will be unveiled over the next four weeks in Hamilton (February 9), Kitchener-Waterloo (March 2) and Toronto (March 15). For more details and complete results please visit Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is the voice of 17,000 university professors and academic librarians across Ontario. The Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario unites more than 300,000 college and university undergraduate and graduate students studying at post-secondary institutions across the province

-30-For more information contact:Graeme Stewart, Communications and Government Relations Manager, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations: 647-280-3175Nora Loreto, Communications and Government Relations Coordinator, CFS-Ontario: 416-925-3825 or 416-846-6672