Monday 11 May 1992

Committee budget

Student assistance

Ontario Community College Student Presidents' Association

Simon Smith, member

Ontario Graduate Association

Lisa MacCormack, chair

Canadian Union of Educational Workers

Vanessa Kelly, chair, national affairs

Mark Satterly, past chair, national affairs

Canadian Organization of Part-Time University Students

Thomas Hui, president

Deanne Fisher, member

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

John Clarke, provincial organizer


Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York North/-Nord L)

*Acting Chair / Présidente suppléante: O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Daigeler, Hans (Nepean L)

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton ND)

Fawcett, Joan M. (Northumberland L)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*White, Drummond (Durham Centre ND)

*Wilson, Gary (Kingston and The Islands/Kingston et Les Îles ND)

*Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

Witmer, Elizabeth (Waterloo North/-Nord PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*Lessard, Wayne (Windsor-Walkerville ND) for Mr Owens

*In attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffière: Mellor, Lynn

Staff: Personnel: Drummond, Alison, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1542 in committee room 2.

The Acting Chair (Mrs Yvonne O'Neill): I call to order the meeting of the standing committee on social development. I am chairing today in the absence of Mr Charles Beer.

I would like to welcome some elected members from far and distant countries whom we have with us today. I think some of them were with us in the House. The Eastern European countries are doing a tour of legislatures in Canada and are going to be with us this afternoon. We certainly welcome you. We hope our committee hearings will be helpful.


The Acting Chair: The first item on our agenda this afternoon is the committee budget. I suggest we approve this as presented. I am ready to receive any questions you may have. It is a very traditional committee budget.

Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): I presume this is based on last year's activity of the committee. Is that the pattern we're following here?

The Acting Chair: Do you want to answer that?

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lynn Mellor): What I discussed with Mr Beer, because we hadn't any idea of what is coming to us, was that we do an annual budget looking at the idea that we will have perhaps four weeks of sitting in both recesses, or perhaps five in one and three in the other, depending on the subject matter referred to us. That's what we based it on.

Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I move support of the budget.

The Acting Chair: All right. With that we will take the vote. Just as a matter of note, the Tories have given us permission to go ahead without them, for the approval of this budget and some of the hearings this afternoon, until they arrive. May I have a vote just to make this approval process traditional?

Those who are for the budget as presented? All right; we have unanimous support of the members present for the 1992-93 budget of the standing committee on social development.


Resuming consideration of the designated matter pursuant to standing order 123, relating to student assistance.


The Acting Chair: I think we have our first presenter, as outlined. Have I got Mr Simon Smith in front of me?

Mr Simon Smith: You have. I'm actually waiting for two more people, but I guess we can just -- when they appear, they appear.

The Acting Chair: Excuse me. I have a lot of noise behind me with this traffic. You'll have to speak a little louder.

Mr Smith: I'm waiting for two more people, so I guess --

The Acting Chair: Would you like to wait? It would be much help if we could start.

Mr Smith: Is it possible to give them a few more minutes? My speech will not take 20 minutes.

The Acting Chair: I think we could reach a compromise in five minutes if everybody would guarantee to stay in the room. You're not supposed to be on for five more minutes, but I'd rather the members did not leave, because five minutes never seems to be enough to bring people back in. Are you going to be reading a brief, Mr Simon?

Mr Smith: I just wrote a little speech.

The Acting Chair: You have no written brief to present.

Mr Smith: I actually didn't get the copies required. I'm going to bring them down tomorrow. The lady I spoke to this morning said it was all right if I did that.

The Acting Chair: If your remarks and likely those of your colleagues are rather informal, would you mind making your remarks and then we will ask you questions?

Mr Smith: Sure, whatever you like.

The Acting Chair: If your colleagues join you -- well, I think that might be better in that there are always several questions. We can never accommodate all the members' questions. Mr Smith, perhaps you'd like to begin. You have the 20 minutes. You can divide it however you wish.

Mr Smith: I would first like to relay the apologies of our organization, OCCSPA, as unfortunately our executives could not attend today's meeting.

We live in tough times today. Nobody can deny that. Canada's government, laden with massive debt at both the provincial and federal levels, must make tough economic decisions to both balance government budgets and encourage a stagnating economy. Today's policymakers are being forced to find new ways to cut expenses and balance the books that will ensure not only short-term financial responsibility and growth but also long-term financial responsibility and growth.

During the past 18 months, Canada and the rest of the industrialized world has fallen upon tough economic times. We are facing ever-increasing unemployment, homelessness, family breakdowns, overcrowding in our schools, massive demand for food banks, overloading of our social programs, cuts in our health system and I could go on even more.

Amid all of the turmoil, despair and uncertainty remains Canada's greatest resource, our youth, our young people, the segments of our population that will lead us into the next century as our future leaders. This country is internationally recognized around the world as a country rich in resources, but in order for its resources to work and to benefit the nation, they must be cultivated, managed and developed.

Indeed, the same can be said for our young people. Canada needs to cultivate, manage and develop its young people through the continuation of a quality education system, allowing accessibility and affordability to all who require it. In Japan, a country that has seen dramatic economic development and growth over the last 30 years, Japanese industry and government encourages and recognizes the need to develop an educated workforce, able to apply specific skills to such growth areas as electronics, computers and sciences. Japanese society emphasizes a need for quality education. Government and industry recognize this need, generally sponsoring a wide range of programs that assist and encourage students towards a quality education.

With the current trend towards a global marketplace, Canada will have to compete with the likes of Japan, Germany and Denmark etc. In order to compete successfully, the Canadian workforce must be prepared to meet our competition head-on, offering quality products and services, but also developing future initiatives and projects that will give us an edge over our competitors. To gain this edge our workforce must be well educated and able to deal with new technologies that are changing at a rapid pace.

Accessibility and affordability of a quality education are a must if Canada is to survive in today's global economy. Government must allow Canadians the option of gaining a quality education, and for those unable to afford it our government must put in place tools and resources that will allow everyone an opportunity to develop and get an education.

A dramatic increase in admissions to all forms of post-secondary education has led to a dramatic increase in the student loan and grant requirements. Students, many of whom are facing a bleak summer regarding employment, will be forced to use OSAP to its maximum this coming academic year.

Currently Ontario must face student loan defaults in excess of $115 million per year. Combined with the increase in admissions, no work and a poor economy, many students will be unable to afford an education, unable to get a job and unable to attain their goals and dreams, many of which will help this country grow in the future.

The suggestion of abolishing grants and going to a loans-only program will mean a huge increase in student loan plan defaults. This in turn will prevent many students from affording school and unable to access many of Canada's premier education facilities. Many students who leave home to go to school will have to look locally for educational institutions, and for many people living in small rural areas the option of going to college or university will remain a distant dream.

The Ontario student award program is an essential part of our future. At Sheridan College, approximately 46% of our full-time student body applied for OSAP during the 1991-92 academic year. The number of applications received was 4501, a 49% increase from the previous year. This is a clear indication that students have a desire to learn, but accessibility is difficult due to the lack of employment now and the lack of financial assistance.

In the previous academic year, Ontario student grants provided Sheridan College with 44% of total student assistance. With the removal of this grant program, more students will require loan assistance to attend school and not all will be successful. However, all will feel the stress and pressure of heavy debt upon graduation from their respective program. This is even more discouraging when the unemployment rate is obscenely high, forcing many students to default on their student loans when they do graduate.

In the past year, 38 area high schools were visited by Sheridan's student loan officers, and they held 19 internal information sessions, again, a sign that our youth are proactively planning early for their future through post-secondary education. This opportunity has been removed simply because many will be unable to afford a higher level of education, and the thought of a large debt upon finishing school will force many to abandon their dreams of higher education.


Therefore, by reducing the amount of assistance students receive, you reduce the number of people enrolled in your school. They in turn are still unable to find employment and must turn to UI or welfare for assistance, increasing these costs to an even less bearable rate and again leaving the burden on our taxpayers.

Students need the assistance, remembering that our students of today are our future of tomorrow.

In conclusion, I say to all of Canada's decision-makers, remember that this is indeed a great country, full of great people, with wonderful traditions. For all of us to continue this, we need to develop our greatest resource, ourselves and our young people. We must allow accessibility and affordability to a quality education, especially to those unable to afford an education. That is why the need for grants is a must for Ontario and indeed for all of Canada. Let's develop, not destroy.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Mr Smith. Mr Daigeler, you have a question?

Mr Daigeler: Thank you, Mr Smith, for coming before us probably on somewhat short notice, as it always works with these committees. Nevertheless, I think your input is very valuable to us.

Let me ask you first of all if you had been aware, before you received the invitation to appear before us, of the plans that are being developed both inside the government and, I guess, especially by the association of university presidents to put in place an income-contingent repayment plan; in other words, changing OSAP to a loans-only program and --

Mr White: On a point of order, Madam Chair: There are no definite plans put before the public with regard to a loans-only program, and this prejudges the response.

The Acting Chair: At committee we are able to investigate all options. I don't think this is a point of order. It may be a point of information, but it's not a point of order.

Mr Daigeler: I think, Madam Chair, that Mr White has previously used points of orders in a very inappropriate manner to interrupt members of the opposition who are speaking. I would appreciate it if you would perhaps advise him to refrain from that in the future.

The Acting Chair: Well, I haven't accepted his point of order.

Mr Daigeler: I think it would go ahead much easier if he would leave that with us.

Mr White: Madam Chair --

Mr Daigeler: If I could continue with the witness --

The Acting Chair: I have ruled that it's not a point of order. Mr Daigeler has the floor.

Mr Daigeler: You can understand, Mr Smith, from the questions that are coming from the government, that obviously it's a sensitive issue. That, of course, is why we are raising it. You will appreciate that the students who have appeared before the committee so far are extremely concerned that these matters are discussed. They know there are funding constraints upon everyone. So I'd like to ask you again, because we were interrupted here, were you aware of these plans and, if not, what is your view specifically on this income contingency idea?

Mr Smith: As I said in the beginning, I'm here representing my executive, which cannot be here. I know the basics. I'm not aware of the fine details of the plan. No, I'm not aware of the income plan at all. Actually, I'd never heard of it until today.

Mr Daigeler: Perhaps I should indicate to you that --

Mr Smith: I am aware of the fact that this government is considering abolishing the OSAP grants as they exist today.

Mr Daigeler: Well, I haven't gone so far as to say that. I will leave it up to the government members to either correct this or not.

Mr Smith: But that's the proposal. That's why I'm here.

Mr Daigeler: Frankly, there are pressures coming from various groups. One of the witnesses that was here was the Council of Ontario Universities. I think they are one of the main proponents of this income contingency plan.

You're the first one to come for the college community. Perhaps I could hear from you in a more general way how important OSAP is for the community college students. You already mentioned it a little bit by saying that almost half your students applied for it. How significant is OSAP for your students in particular, and are there any specific problems that you're experiencing as college students?

Mr Smith: The biggest problem is turnover. The system is overloaded. Turnaround time for our students is extremely high. Students are having to wait up to five months to get their money. People, especially single mothers, are in dire straits. This year I've had more students in my office in tears, financially destitute, than ever before.

The whole system needs to be looked at. Administratively it appears to be a nightmare, compounded with the fact that the number of applications has doubled since last year and that it'll probably double again. Like I said before, half of our students at Sheridan College -- and I did not know this until today -- which has 10,000 full-time students, rely on OSAP, I think a total payout of $11 million last year. If you consider that 44% of that was grants, that represents about $1,200 per student, which is a lot of money. That will mean, for a lot of students, not going to school next year, which concerns me and should concern us all.

The Acting Chair: Mr Martin, did you have a question when you were raising your hand or were you just trying to get my attention?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to assure you that there are no plans in place to change anything at the moment. There's a review going on. Is your organization part of that review? The organizations that have come before us so far have all been part of that review and are certainly participating actively in it and trying to assist us in this very difficult area of trying to make sure that all students in Ontario who want to go to college or university have access. In fact, our government last year threw an extra $53 million into the pot above and beyond what normally goes into the student assistance program to make sure that as many people as possible were able to access.

The big question at this point, I think, is much more fundamental than whether it be grant or loan; it is, how can we improve the system so that more students can go to college and university? I'm not sure about you, but I know that when I was in university there were a number of students who needed money who didn't get it and a number of students who did who didn't need it.

Mr Smith: That's the other problem, yes.

Mr Martin: How do we resolve some of that so that more students who actually do need the money to access post-secondary education can in fact do that?

Mr Smith: You're probably not aware that our organization has just gone through a structural change. We initiated a new executive with a new mandate only last week. I'm not quite sure whether anybody has been attending these meetings -- the Ontario Federation of Students and the Council of Ontario Universities -- that's basically why I'm here. I'm sort of coming in blind.

I think the biggest problem here is accessibility. A lot of students, like you mentioned, who do deserve it don't get it and then the ones who don't, do get it and spend it on frivolous things such as stereos and holidays. There has to be some way we can change that. I don't know how, but I think someone mentioned to me this morning that the Australians have some kind of system that once you're 18 --

Mr Martin: That's what Mr Daigeler was referring to earlier, the income contingency loan idea.


Mr Smith: I had heard that apparently if that was placed into our system it would save us $40 million a year in administrative costs alone. I think the whole system needs to be looked at, revamped. It's becoming an administrative nightmare. I don't know what to suggest.

The Acting Chair: Do you have a question?

Mr White: Yes. I notice that tomorrow our first witness will be Mr Chris Trump, the executive director of the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario. You essentially are his counterpart. By coincidence, I met Mr Trump at a Skills Development workshop last weekend. He's going to come out in favour of the income contingency plan. You've stated you don't have any necessary concerns about that, but your prime concern is revamping the OSAP programming with the emphasis on accessibility and generating as much accessibility as possible for college students.

Mr Smith: For the people who need it, yes. There has to be some way we can make this accessible to the people who really need it. I don't know how, but --

Mr White: You're saying that at present the OSAP program, with its emphasis upon universities as opposed to colleges, family dependency etc, really has some major problems for your colleagues.

Mr Smith: I don't know whether it has an emphasis over colleges.

Mr White: It does.

Mr Smith: I don't know. I'm not going to speak on that. But I know, for example, for young, single mothers who need the money very quickly, some of them are unable to work and they have day care and many of them have had to wait many months to get their loans, and many single people as well. It's tough right now. It's very tough for students. Having to wait that much longer adds more stress, and they don't need that. There are an awful lot of problems with it right now.

Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): Mr Smith, I think you've done an excellent job of stating why the grant system should be preserved, although you've indicated there should be some streamlining and greater efficiencies in the system. I agree with you there. I am probably the only member of the committee right now who's still paying back my OSAP, so I'm well aware of the difficulties you've brought forward and also some of the long-term consequences you've mentioned. But I think the government, if it does move to cut out the grants, will sell that by saying, "We're cutting out grants, but we're going to provide more money for loans." Can you just briefly, for the record, comment on how that will affect your constituency?

Mr Smith: Again, I'm against that because I feel the thought of the burden of a heavy debt load upon finishing school is going to have dire consequences on many students. Many students will probably not even bother going to school if they can't afford it. They're probably unwilling to take on such a heavy debt.

Mr Jim Wilson: Is that because it would scare them, taking on the debt?

Mr Smith: For sure it would, yes. A three-year program at college, with $10,000 a year, is $30,000.

Mr Jim Wilson: With no guarantee of a job afterwards.

Mr Smith: No. That's the problem. We're facing no guarantees at all. There's no guarantee in life, period, but --

Mr Jim Wilson: It's a little bleaker now.

Mr Smith: -- it's a little bleaker right now. It's a bad time. We realize there are financial constraints everywhere, but I really think maybe we're going after the wrong people.

The Acting Chair: I think, Mr Smith, you've done yourself well. I'm sorry your colleagues were not able to join you, but hopefully they'll be able to read Hansard and they will agree with what you've presented.

Mr Smith: I hope so. Thank you very much.


The Acting Chair: Lisa MacCormack, please. Lisa, you are representing the Ontario Graduate Association.

Ms Lisa MacCormack: That's right.

The Acting Chair: Would you begin, please.

Ms MacCormack: The Ontario Graduate Association is a semiautonomous commission of the Ontario Federation of Students. We represent some 18,000 graduate students in Ontario. As a commission of OFS, the OGA is funded and supported by OFS and we have indirect access to the OFS research department field staff and information services.

The Ontario Graduate Association is pleased to have received an invitation from this committee to make a presentation regarding the Ontario scholarship assistance plan. The Ontario Federation of Students has already, last week, tabled a submission to this committee. We echo the details of that paper and would like to expand further on issues particular to graduate students.

The purpose of graduate education is less the dissemination of knowledge than its creation. Because of this, the quality of a graduate program is measured in great part by reference to its students. To create and maintain a good graduate program, one must be able to recruit the best available students regardless of social barrier or economic disadvantage.

Financial support is a serious problem for graduate students, whose progress through a master's and doctorate can easily drag on for over a decade. A recent survey of doctoral students at the University of Toronto concluded that the "most important factors in accounting for the time it takes students to complete their doctoral studies are financial." Debt accumulated over the course of the degrees, and the compounding interest in the years which follow graduation, create impossible scenarios for graduates.

Graduate students were shut out of OSAP grant eligibility in 1978 when the system was reformed. Prior to 1978, 30% of master's students received OSAP grants; with reform, the number of grant eligibility periods was limited to eight terms, and graduate students no longer qualify. The change represented a major cut in student aid for this group, and the Ontario graduate scholarship program was not enriched to fill the gap.

The Ontario graduate scholarship program assists roughly one in every 15 full-time graduate students, after an extremely rigorous process of elimination. The bursary amounts to $3,953 for two or three terms, which is far below subsistence level. Last year 1,300 scholarships were announced and less than 1,200 were awarded. The loss of over 100 scholarships was never explained by the government.

The first recommendation that the OGA has is to maintain the present mix of loans and grants over that of an all-loans program, but we stand behind the grants program as put forth by OFS.

We are the example you are looking for. We are an example of what will happen if the grants portion of OSAP is eliminated. Completion times of degrees are longer. People have to stop going to school, they have to get part-time jobs, they have to drop down to a part-time status just to pay the tuition bills to go to school. Graduate students are forced to live on their credit cards. That's not an isolated incident; that happens. A graduate education is becoming only for those who have the personal financial resources to pay for it. Another concern of proceeding to an all-loans program is that students will be carrying such a heavy debt load by the time they leave their undergraduate degree that they're going to be drawn to finding a job and paying off that loan rather than going on to graduate education.

Besides the problem of not qualifying for an OSAP grant, graduate students are facing a further economic hurdle. The Ontario Council of Graduate Studies has recently released a paper entitled Toward a Graduate Tuition Fee Policy for Ontario Universities. This paper recommends the dismantling of the present residency/post-residency tuition fee schedule, where after a certain period of time in university, usually three semesters in a master's degree and six semesters in a doctorate degree, you pay tuition fees 40% of what you would normally pay. What they're recommending is that all universities move to a maximum tuition for every semester of graduate school by 1995-96.

This will increase the financial burden on graduate students to the breaking point, and it will be conceivable that a master's degree, two and a half years approximately, will cost at least $10,000 in tuition fees alone and that a doctorate will set you back $22,000 in tuition fees. They're conservative estimates on how long it would take to do a degree. The University of Toronto has already announced the intention to eliminate the post-program fee differential in the coming year. Graduate students will have to rely on student loans and teaching or research assistantships which are already in short supply because of the general underfunding to the university system.

The second recommendation that the OGA brings today is that the limit on grant eligibility periods be eliminated. The impending massive tuition increases graduate students are facing now are making students wonder if it is in their best financial interests to continue their education. Funding for graduate students is already at a crisis point. Don't make the same mistake with the undergrads.


The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. Mr Martin, you have the first question.

Mr Martin: I want to thank you for coming and for the obvious time you put into preparing your brief. You certainly bring some compelling arguments to the table from your personal perspective and that of some of your friends who are attending graduate school.

The problem at the moment seems to be one of a shortage of resources, whether it's into the university/college system and whether it's through lack of money to upgrade the physical facility of universities or to improve the libraries and perhaps the number of professors who are there to teach and all of that, and then ultimately you throw into the mix our ability as a government to provide assistance for students who want to go so that there is accessibility.

We have a system of grants and loans in place which doesn't seem to be working. It doesn't matter who you talk to: Students who are getting them are saying they're not getting enough; students who aren't getting them want more. There are even students out there who say that if we were to provide more open access to loans, they would be getting a loan because they feel they could at least pay that back after.

Graduate students are an interesting group in that they're already into a loans-only program, and obviously they're finding it somewhat difficult. In light of that and in light of our need to review this whole process, which we're doing, is there anything at this point we could do to the program, short of providing grants to graduate students, which would make it easier for them to continue their studies and not be frozen out of the system at a point where they're not yet complete?

Ms MacCormack: Graduate students are sort of stuck on the fence. We're stuck between the federal government and the provincial government. The federal government funds us for research -- that's where we get our NSERCs, our SSHRCs and stuff like that -- whereas the provincial government funds the universities, the infrastructure: what is there for us to teach in, what is there for us to research in. We're torn between the two, because on the one hand we need the research money, and on the other hand we need the money to make sure the university is there. We're in a unique position.

What can you do to help graduate students get through? We've been shut out of grants for so long we don't even realize we could have got grants back in 1978. People are walking out with huge loans. The biggest crisis we're facing right now is the impending massive tuition fee increases we're going to be hitting. It's coming up. They're going to be going from approximately $880.00 a year to upwards of $4,500 a year. That's going to cut off the amount of graduate students coming to Ontario. They're going to go to Alberta and they're going to go to Nova Scotia and other places where tuition fees are not as high for graduate students.

Something has to be done in that way, indirectly. Instead of giving us money, which doesn't seem to be possible at this point in time because of the underfunding of the university system, do something to stop this huge increase, which the graduate schools wish to do right now on residency and post-residency, which will make tuition so high over that number of years for us. Right now it's taking on average three, three and a half years to do a master's degree. In 1977 it was taking two years, a year and a half. People have to take the time off because the money's not there. They have to do their own type of work.

The other problem with graduate students is that even if you wanted to go out and get a part-time job and do something, you are regulated by what's called the 10-hour-week rule where you are mandated by the ministry to work no more than 10 hours a week or you will drop down from a full-time graduate student to a part-time graduate student, and then your degree is increased by even that much more time. You're stuck between a lot of rocks and a lot of hard places, to be honest.

If you stop the impending tuition fee increase by intervening in some way and telling the graduate schools that we can't accept such increases, that would help us in the short term. But if you don't do that you're going to end up seeing a loss of productivity and a loss of graduate students here in Ontario and you're going to lose the people to other provinces.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Ms MacCormack. Mr Wilson, you have a question?

Mr Jim Wilson: Ms MacCormack, I am wondering if there has been a study done that would let us know how much it would cost to eliminate the current grant eligibility period, which is limited now, as you say, to eight terms. What if we were to eliminate that? Second to that would be, how many of the 18,000 graduate students would require financial assistance?

Ms MacCormack: I wish I could give you numbers on that, but I really can't. What I can say on eliminating the grant eligibility term is take it a step further and adopt what the Canadian Federation of Students has come out with as the Strategy for Change, which is an all-grants system where anyone can get a grant, whether they wanted to go to undergraduate or whether they wanted to do a graduate. I don't have the figures with me, but according to Strategy for Change, I believe it is at the point of $1.1 billion, which would be on the federal government, and the provincial government would put the money that is normally placed in student assistance now directly into the universities. You can get a copy of that at the OFS office. I'm sure they would be more than willing to give you a copy.

As to how many of 18,000 graduate students would need it, we all need money. We're all living below poverty.

Mr Jim Wilson: Chair, I direct that question to the parliamentary assistant, who could take note of that and get back to the committee whether the government itself has any figures with respect to the question I've asked.

The Acting Chair: Mr Daigeler, have you got some questions?

Mr Daigeler: Yes. First a comment: Perhaps I could just remind you, even though the government members won't like this and I might get another interjection from Mr White, that the all-grants idea you mentioned as a position by the students also used to be the NDP policy priority. I don't know whether you recall that.

Ms MacCormack: Yes, I do.

Mr Daigeler: Of course, that was then, and now the situation is a little different. As an ideal, perhaps this would be a good idea, but we must not forget that all governments -- I don't blame the current government for the fiscal problems that we are all experiencing. There are limitations and therefore everybody is looking at ways to deal with this financial crunch.

But you pointed out a very important issue that hasn't really been stressed enough: that we especially need graduate students and graduate work in this province and, of any group, it would be the graduate students who would be particularly hurt by a large debt load. The proponents of the income contingency plan are saying, "Well, they'll be the ones who will also make the most money afterwards, and therefore they can afford to pay it back."

Frankly, I think that's a very serious discouragement from entering graduate studies, from pursuing a financially rewarding career, because all you have then for a prospect is being taxed more; already the higher income levels are being increasingly taxed. Also, their education is going to be more expensive, so people are going to ask, "Why should I go through all this tough work to complete graduate studies?" You have a lot of sacrifice in terms of length of time and studying and everything else. I think you've done us a service by indicating the significance of a debt load, in particular for attracting graduate students. That is perhaps more a comment than a question.

I do have a specific question. For at least some universities right now, the graduate tuition fees have already been increased quite significantly. Was that at all universities or was it just at some, and what has been your reaction there?

Ms MacCormack: The present situation, what's going on, is that across the province every university can set how much it wants to charge in a tuition fee, as we all know. Some universities tend to charge full tuition for the first three semesters and then drop down to 40% of the tuition fee.

What you're probably referring to is what's happening at Carleton in Ottawa right now; also Western and the University of Toronto. The grand plan, it would appear, is to bring everybody on post-residency fees up to the same level. The University of Guelph, which is my university, presently charges $550 a semester, after I've been there now for three years on my master's degree. At the same time, Carleton University was charging $245 a semester. So Carleton, the University of Ottawa, Western and U of T have all come up to $550.

The second step of the great plan is to go to full tuition for every semester after that, and the wish for that is to have it by 1995-96. My comment on that is that you're going to be driving away graduate students from this province and there will be no one here to do the teaching in our universities, to supervise the students or to do the research which brings the money to the universities. That's what the end result is going to be. I'm fully confident that that's exactly what's going to happen. Other graduate schools will reap the benefit of Ontario's losses.


The Acting Chair: Mr White, you wanted one short question, as we're running a little ahead of time.

Mr White: One of the concerns I have is that I've applied for a doctoral program in the past -- I'm not looking for one right now -- and it seems to me that when I compared various doctoral programs, some of them were very fixed in terms of the residency requirements and the time for completion and others were never-ending cycles. In fact, that was the experience of the students involved.

I read in this presentation a concern about the length of time. You're saying this is related to funding, but I would also suggest that the structure of the program creates problems. If you have a never-ending cycle or a never-ending program such as at the University of Toronto, where at its doctoral level these programs can go on for six, seven years -- and that's the regular experience -- while other programs are defined as two-year programs after a master's for a doctorate, I am concerned that there should be responsibility on the part of the university to have defined programs so that students know what they're getting into when they enter a doctoral program, know what the expectations are, how many years, how many thousands of dollars they'll be spending. Any comments on that?

Ms MacCormack: In the world of research -- I'm a chemist -- things don't go pat in two years for a master's degree and six or seven years. I think there are a lot of humanity students out there who would love to be able to do a PhD in six or seven years.

Is it a problem with the university structure? I think the structure is set up to be most flexible for people who feel the need to leave school and have a part-time job, have a family, earn money on the side in order to pay for university. I don't think doing a six-year PhD is necessarily a problem in time to completion. I think what you can eventually trace it all back to is funding, not to the structure of a program. The programs are structured in order to be most flexible for the students as well as getting a good education and as well as bringing back to the university X amount of dollars in research. So I would say no, I do not agree with what you say about the problem with the structure of the program. I think it inherently goes back to the problem with the funding.

There is also the problem that universities, once they train their graduate students, like to hang on to them for a while. Because they've put so much money into them, because money is very scarce, once they have a graduate student trained who can do the research, then they can start pumping out the papers, which is exactly what universities like to do.

So in essence, sure, the universities may be willing to keep around graduate students longer than they would, but I don't think it's inherent in the structure of the program. I think it just has to do with the administration, and the graduate students and the funding itself.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Ms MacCormack, for bringing your perspective to our committee this afternoon.


The Acting Chair: The next group is the Canadian Union of Educational Workers, Vanessa Kelly.

Ms Vanessa Kelly: I'm Vanessa Kelly and I'm chair, national affairs, of the union.

Mr Mark Satterly: I'm Mark Satterly and I'm former chair, national affairs, of the union.

Ms Kelly: I made him come with me to help. He's done much of the work on this report, so I thought it would be useful if he came.

I have to apologize because you're going to hear some information you've obviously heard already. I'll try to keep it brief.

The Canadian Union of Educational Workers is very pleased to be invited to make this presentation on the Ontario student assistance program. We are extremely concerned that some of the proposals currently under discussion to change OSAP are going to impact negatively upon post-secondary education, further reducing accessibility and lengthening the time needed to complete degree programs. We've seen the briefs by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Ontario Federation of Students and strongly support the positions put forward in these presentations.

CUEW represents approximately 5,500 teaching assistants in Ontario. The proposal to change the current procedure for providing student aid from a combination of grants and loans -- I suppose in the case of graduate students, entirely loans -- to one of loans alone will have a negative impact on the ability of many of our members to continue their studies and to maintain a reasonable standard of living. I should point out that we have undergraduates who are teaching assistants, as well as graduate students. We urge this committee to recommend to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities that student aid should be in the form of grants, not in the form of loans.

I would like to start the body of my report with a quote from an article by Professor Barrett in the London Review of Books. It's called "More Famous Than Madonna" and it's about Genghis Khan, believe it or not. It's nice to know somebody's more famous than Madonna, or at least was. In this review, Professor Barrett talks about the need to fund all types of programs in university, no matter how arcane they may seem to the rest of us. He says:

"One is reminded, when responding to government proposals for funding all levels of education, of the Indian story of the king who, noting that he had no immediate enemies, set his expensive cavalry horses to earn their keep by hauling mill wheels round and round. When they did have to be hastily redeployed in a defensive cavalry charge, they could only gallop round and round in circles, with disastrous consequences.

"Today, market forces rule education absolutely, at least in higher education, though how an initially uneducated market can make rational choices is unclear.... We live in an increasingly interdependent world, most of which has...a history very different from our own. Arriving at an understanding of what that alien history means for the present and future is bound to impose new strains on our education system.

"Simply removing support from areas too specialized to pack in the increased number of students now required to justify any form of higher education exhibits exactly the behaviour derided in the Indian fable: concentrating on grinding out profits regardless of the consequences. Now more than ever security and prosperity, even if no longer threatened by invading nomads, depend on an accurate understanding of the shifting dangers and opportunities in the world as a whole; on an increased internationalism, not an Albanian retreat into comfortable illusions."

Access to higher education must not be based on the ability to pay. Universities are a key in providing opportunities to people of all classes to escape their class boundaries. Therefore, access to universities and colleges must be maintained for the poor, disadvantaged and underrepresented. Traditionally, many segments of our society have been consistently underrepresented, making it harder for them to acquire the education necessary to break out of the poverty cycle. It must be the primary responsibility of government at all levels to ensure that the financial barriers to post-secondary education are removed.

The Canadian economy is reliant on attracting people with a high degree of training and knowledge. Many studies show that the future workforce will require higher educational training, and I refer to the OCUFA brief on that particular point. This will increase the number of students who will require access to post-secondary education and will consequently require the necessary funding. Furthermore, public investment in accessible post-secondary education is vital to the province's social and economic wellbeing.

I think you will see that, as they advance higher through the post-secondary system and get into graduate school, those people who are most disadvantaged in the system find even more barriers in their way as they move up through the system, and you get people dropping out.

Student assistance should be disbursed with the objective of ensuring universal access to higher education. The current discussion within the Ontario government which suggests that the grant portion of OSAP is to be reduced is both alarming and insupportable. CUEW strenuously opposes any policy which would shift the burden of funding post-secondary education on to the students.

Education is a societal concern and, as such, should be publicly funded. In light of this, OCUFA and other groups have called for a reduction in and the eventual elimination of user fees for post-secondary education. Again OCUFA points to the 1976 United Nations covenant, which states that education is a basic right.

Current government policy has been precisely the reverse. Tuition is to increase again by 7% in 1992-93. Wage increases for teaching assistants in CUEW in the past year have ranged between 3% and 5%. Additionally, universities such as Toronto and Carleton are threatening to phase out the post-residency differential, leading to tuition increases as high as 78% for some students.

The awarding of grants can go some way towards the amelioration of the difficulties caused by low wages and increasing debt load caused by the spiralling cost of living and increased tuition.

Any move to replace student grants with loans will necessarily affect access to post-secondary education. Under the present system, students are graduating with debts ranging from $15,000 upwards. This debt load has to be balanced against the likelihood of being unemployed after graduating. For the economically disadvantaged, this represents a potential impediment to attending post-secondary education because of an understandable reluctance to incur a heavy debt load, particularly during the recession and in graduate school, I think, where you will see a real impact in these circumstances or in the humanities and social sciences, where the job market is particularly poor. It's hard enough to compete, and this is another barrier in the way of those students.


One of the crises that is facing post-secondary education at present is the increased amount of time students are taking to complete their graduate degree programs, and you've already heard about this report that was recently conducted at the University of Toronto. In many cases, the length of time being taken to complete a program is increased because a student has interrupted that program: 44% of students who reported an interruption in their programs did so in order to work full- or part-time. While a variety of considerations may lead to the interruption of a student's program, the need to work is by far the most common. This further indicates that financial issues do play a primary role in speeding completion of a program.

In reference to your question about structures and whether structures of certain programs complicate this, I think that's a complicated question. But one thing I will say is that the types of people who are going to graduate school now are different than they were 15, 20, 30 years ago. You see more people who are older going back to school after one career or two careers. They have children. Funding patterns have changed and I think that has an impact as well. So it's not gentlemen and scholars all, as it used to be 30 years ago.

The financial crunch for the majority of students comes at the time when they are writing their dissertations. There may be other sources of income early in the program, such as teaching assistantship or a departmental grant. However, this funding often runs out before the dissertation is completed, due to an insufficient amount of time being recognized as needed to complete the entire program.

CUEW members are caught in a double bind. On the one hand, they are faced with cutbacks in funding; on the other hand, they are faced with the reduction or the elimination of jobs. On both counts, they are then forced to acquire a greater debt load or work outside the university, which in turn decreases their eligibility for loans.

The result is that a student either takes an increased amount of time to complete the program or else drops out without completing. The dropout rate, I think, is an indication of a tragic waste of human and institutional resources. For some people to be in a program for five or six years and have taxpayer money invested in their work and then drop out before completion is, I think, really shocking. The dropout rates are getting to be outrageous, and I think the primary reason for that is lack of funding.

Coupled with the difficulty in securing funding late in a program is the unequal distribution of available funding. In many cases, private funding is available for students in certain disciplines such as engineering, computer science, nuclear physics etc. Those students in humanities and social sciences do not always have the same funding. I've referred you to an appendix that details that.

Income-contingent loan repayment: I'll simply say that our main point here is that when it comes right down to it, repayment variables are subject to amendment to suit the financial constraints of the respective government, so it's kind of Dutch comfort. We're not really secure with that particular proposal.

As far as improvements to OSAP are concerned, CUEW believes that improvements in OSAP are long overdue. Government strategy should be to make these improvements rather than trying to reduce student aid programs. Rather than supporting the principle of shifting from grants to loans, we support the principle of increasing the number of grants and reducing, with a view to eliminating, the loans.

It is time that the inequity in funding certain departments be addressed. If money is available from the private sector for some departments, then more government funding ought to be available for those departments which do not benefit from the private sector. Grant money is needed at the end of a graduate degree program, especially at the PhD level, when other sources of funding have run out.

I would like to stress this point, because departments always have a vested interest in bringing new students into their programs and getting bright students into their programs, so they'll find the money to get people and start them in a program. But what happens after four years is that you usually have no funding left. If some of the funding that is directed and channelled into the early years of the program could be slotted toward the later years of the program, I think it would really help to get people through more quickly.

The costs of enrolling in a graduate degree program need to be assessed more realistically. Costs such as rent and living costs have to be accurately reflected. Other social assistance needs to be incorporated, such as child care, disability allowance and travel.

The criteria for dependency need to be much more flexible. Currently there is no recognition that not all families are supportive ones. There are many cases, especially among CUEW members, where the teaching assistant relies upon his or her work as the sole or major source of income for the rest of the family. To give you an idea of what that could be like at a place like the University of Toronto, the average teaching assistantship for a year at U of T is worth about $5,000. It's pretty hard to support yourself on that.

Improve the coordination between OSAP and other education support or social support programs, especially for those students from underrepresented groups.

As I've mentioned, there are some appendices which could give you some useful facts and figures from various sources. Again, thank you for inviting me to speak.

Mr Jim Wilson: Very quickly, are you having any progress in dealing with the University of Toronto on its proposed fee hikes? I'll ask the second question while I'm at it. Are you getting any air at all with regard to your suggestion of shifting the limited financial assistance that is available more evenly throughout the graduate student program?

Ms Kelly: To answer your first question, we've been encouraged by the amount of graduate student response to these proposals on the part of U of T. I think unanimously they're against these types of increases, particularly for visa students, who of course are not eligible for OSAP. But you're looking at tuition costs in the area of $11,000. Students are quite upset.

Unfortunately, the school of graduate studies at U of T seems to be in favour of it. There has been some discussion with the school, but it's been very vague as to how this plan's actually going to work. There's some discussion of grandparenting the fees over the next couple of years, but nobody has made any promises yet. We're really not sure what's going to happen.

As to your second question, the problem in shifting funds is that right now, the way money is dispersed at a place like U of T is that you get a slice of the pie and the departments have to fight over the slice of the pie. I think they're very reluctant to shift funding patterns because they're afraid they're going to lose the better students. They're not going to be able to attract better students. We saw that in bargaining with U of T, where we tried to point out that teaching assistantships should not be used primarily for funding the teaching jobs and that things like hiring criteria should apply to the way people are given jobs at U of T.

Over and over again we heard, "But we need those teaching assistantships to attract new students." There's a lot of resistance to shifting that funding pattern, and I think the direction may have to come from outside and not from within the university.

Mr Jim Wilson: I'm glad you said that. I used to be a student rep on the board of governors, so I know how difficult those turf battles can be. You mentioned a proposal there to allow students to work outside, and beyond the 10 hours, I gather. How will that affect you?

Ms Kelly: Actually, that will affect them negatively. As you know, how much you can work affects how much of a loan you can get. If those limits are raised, that's going to have a negative impact on the amount of loans. That's also a complicated question, and it's not clear what's going to happen with the 10-hour limit. Again, our members are in a double bind because they either have to go out and work to support themselves, which takes longer so that they take longer to complete their degree, or they have to really live below poverty levels. It's a difficult question.

Mr White: You pointed out a couple of things that I think are very important with the OSAP program. A frustration I have is that, being a father with three children, I wouldn't be eligible because my wife works half-time and earns almost $20,000 a year, which is probably way above the limit. It's hard to live on that amount of money. There's a problem in terms of trying to bring people back in. It doesn't appeal to people, and also you're saying it basically doesn't work for graduate students. It's loans only for graduate students. It's really inadequate in terms of bringing people back in and sustaining people for a lengthy period of time. Could you go a little bit further in terms of the amendments you'd like to see in the OSAP program at present?


Mr Satterly: I'm not quite sure what you're asking, actually.

Mr White: You were saying the OSAP program is inadequate.

Mr Satterly: Right.

Mr White: What else would you like to see happen with it, besides the grants?

Mr Satterly: Something's got to be done with eligibility. I mean to say, I'm in a similar position to the one you might be in. I've got a partner who works, makes over $20,000 a year and I've had to put a thesis on hold because I can't afford to pay my tuition because I don't have any other source of funding, and what was looked at was how much other members of my family were earning. That's a serious issue that has to be addressed.

Vanessa has mentioned about overseas students. I was also a visa student when I came here. That's the other issue. A lot of visa students, with what they earn either in terms of a teaching assistantship or if they get a part-time teaching job or if they get a scholarship or whatever, are still barely covering their tuition. We mentioned the point of the phasing out of the post-residency fees. That is going to probably affect visa students more. Yes, it's going to affect Canadian students too; it's going to affect visa students even more.

Certainly I see some emphasis on that. I don't quite know why this is suddenly being attacked. It seemed to come out of the blue a couple of months ago. We'd like to see some reasons why this post-residency is now being attacked and why it's suddenly an issue.

Ms Kelly: I guess the point to be made is that none of these things can be looked at in isolation. They really all do connect, so you can't raise tuition and then put a little more into the OSAP loan program. I think there has to be a comprehensive reassessment of how the post-secondary education system is funded and what role the student plays in that system.

Of course that fits into the larger issue of the tax structure. I believe the OFS brief talked about progressive taxation and that type of thing and made various statements on that issue which we support. Certainly, looking at the eligibility requirements in terms of time too: So many graduate students just aren't eligible for OSAP. It would be helpful as well if those eligibility requirements could be reworked so that more graduate students would be able to access those loans.

The Acting Chair: Mr Wilson, you have time for a very short question.

Mr Gary Wilson (Kingston and The Islands): I worked at Queen's University library for 11 years. When times were better we didn't see much result from university funding. As you know, underfunding has been a problem for quite a number of years. My question involves the coordination among the groups on campuses and whether there can be more deliberation among those groups to have better use of the funds that are there now.

Ms Kelly: By groups on campuses, do you mean the institutional groups on campuses or graduate student groups, union groups?

Mr Gary Wilson: I actually meant student groups, workers, faculty and administration.

Ms Kelly: It's a great idea in principle and I would certainly urge the committee to direct university administrations to be more cooperative and consultative. Maybe they're moving in that direction. The problem with many of the student groups -- and if you could have seen Mark and I at about 2:30 this afternoon Xeroxing like crazy, you would have realized this -- is that we're very short in terms of human resources and financial resources.

I think somebody on the committee asked about the type of studies that have been done on how long it takes to complete degrees. We would love to be able to conduct those kinds of studies. In fact, we had to wait for the University of Toronto to finally get interested in that, because I think the school of graduate studies was starting to get hammered because it's taking so long for people to complete their degrees. We just don't have the resources to do it. That might be one thing the committee could direct administrations to do, to include student and union groups on committees more and to direct some funds. That's not a big cost issue.

Just to let you know how resistant the universities can be on that issue, I was on the bargaining committee for the teaching assistants last year when we were on strike. What we were on strike for was a joint union-management committee to discuss TA workload and overwork. That's all it was, a committee. The committee is not empowered to do anything else but make recommendations, and we had to go on strike to get it. I can remember speaking to people at the Ministry of Labour, who just said: "This is ridiculous. This is like stone age bargaining." I think there's a great deal of resistance to include the students and many parts of the faculty, librarians as well, in this consultative process, and that's certainly one thing that you could do, tell them to open up a little bit.

Mr Satterly: I've seen over the last year that there has probably been more in the way of consultation or at least taking steps towards it. The frustrating thing I find is that often the consultation happens when it's a fait accompli, or we're called in and told what the university's going to do, and so we're kind of left working with other unions or associations on the campus. We feel that we're one group and the administration and its set is another group, and we come in only when things have been decided. We're obviously willing to consult as much as possible, but it has to be real consultation. I hope that what we've seen over the last few months, particularly around the transitional funding that the government announced in the last budget, is going to continue and it's going to be something that becomes more realistic or a real consultation as opposed to just going through the motions, which it seems to be at the moment.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Ms Kelly and Mr Satterly, for your presentation this afternoon.


The Acting Chair: We have the association of part-time university students present now: Mr Hui and Ms Fisher. Are you both going to be presenting?

Ms Deanne Fisher: He'll be presenting.

Mr Thomas Hui: I will be presenting the report and both of us will be answering questions as needed.

The Acting Chair: All right. Thank you, Thomas. Would you like to begin now please?

Mr Hui: Madam Chair, members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen, we welcome the opportunity for COPUS, which stands for Canadian Organization of Part-Time University Students to be present here, to view some of our concerns regarding the OSAP program.

What I am going to do is just go through the submissions we have in front of you and then we'll be answering the questions as needed.

We're going to go through the profile of our part-time students. A part-time student, as defined by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the OSAP program, is a student enrolled in a post-secondary program in less than 60% of a full-course load. These are students, however, whose interests are represented by our organization who are not covered by the Ministry's formal definition of a part-time student. For example, students in many of the non-credit, non-post-secondary courses and programs are not eligible for OSAP. Some institutions define part-time students as those who are taking up to 70% course load, which includes the University of Toronto. We also represent the interests of mature students who study full-time as well.

The typical profile of part-time students shows them as older than their full-time counterparts, usually working either full-time or part-time or taking care of family members. A majority of part-time students are female, mostly taking courses in the evenings. They also have previous post-secondary education.

In 1989, part-time students accounted for only 1% of OSAP recipients, although part-time students made up 17% of the MCU's funded college enrolment and 31% of university undergraduate enrolment during that year.

Although the low number of part-time OSAP recipients is in part due to the greater financial security of some of these students, there are many less obvious reasons. As you know, OSAP provides grants to students in the first eight terms of study, the equivalent of a university degree, regardless of whether the students even applied for assistance in those eight terms. Many part-time students have participated in post-secondary education earlier in life and are returning because of a need to retrain and upgrade. Many are immigrants with education from their native country and require the equivalent education here in order to have their skills recognized. These students are not eligible for grants. If this type of student qualifies in every other respect, then their need will be met in loans only, which they may be less likely to accept.

The part-time Canada student loans program is not a student assistance program as we know it to be. Repayment of a part-time Canada student loan begins 30 days after the student borrows the money, while he is still studying, and he also has a loan limit of $2,500. Most students do not accept this kind of assistance as they are unable to make repayments. Ontario student loans, therefore, are the only viable form of assistance remaining for many part-time students. Ontario student loan provides up to $1,000 per term.


Part-time students who used up their grant eligibility period may be ineligible for OSAP for other reasons, primarily because their financial resources are perceived by OSAP to be sufficient to carry through their education without government assistance.

We have little data to support our assumptions about why many part-time students do not receive OSAP funding. However, a study of part-time students at the University of Toronto discovered that of 69% of part-time students who did not apply for student financial assistance, less than half said it was not necessary. A third, on the other hand, said that they were not eligible for assistance and a further 23% said they did not apply to avoid debt.

We therefore believe there's a significant financial need within the part-time student population which is not being met by OSAP in its current form.

Would an adequate loans program be able to meet those needs? We are not opposed to the concept of student loans. However, we are highly sceptical that an all-loans program could prove feasible, especially from the students' perspective.

The average debt load of a graduate is already somewhere around $14,000. A student with that kind of debt would be required to pay it back within 10 years. Perhaps 10 years of devoting roughly 10% of one's salary to repay a student loan seems fair for the traditional 24-year-old graduate with few other financial obligations upon graduation, but increasingly, students over the age of 25 are accessing the programs and OSAP.

What effects do a $14,000 debt to be repaid over 10 years have on a graduate who may be 40 years old, have a family to support and be preparing for both his own retirement and the children's education? We don't have the answer to this question and we suggest a great deal more research is needed on non-traditional students before you consider increasing the debt load for graduates. Factors other than age and family status, such as race and ethnic background, must be taken into consideration as well. The idea that post-secondary education is an investment almost guaranteed to be met with increased financial security may not be as universal as the current program presumes.

Given that very few part-time students are using the OSAP in the current form, a more liberal loans program would at least be an improvement if it allowed most students to borrow what they perceive they need. Part-time students would benefit greatly from an improved part-time Canada student loans program which provided the same benefits to part-time students as it does to full-time. Instead, the federal government is currently considering increasing the course load requirement needed to access full-time Canada student loans to 80%. That change will relegate another group of students to the part-time Canada student loans program, which remains unchanged and inadequate.

I'd like to consider the possibility of an income-contingent repayment plan. Would it possibly alleviate this problem? We're not opposed to the concept of income-contingent repayment. It provides security to the borrower that the loan repayment will not be unreasonably arduous. However, we're sceptical that it's feasible. Many questions would have to be answered to our satisfaction before we could support such a program.

Some of those are, for example, what is a reasonable percentage of a graduate's salary that should be devoted to a loan repayment program? Would this percentage be applied evenly, regardless of the debts incurred by the graduate? What is a reasonable length of time for repayment? Ten years, 20 years, more? For all graduates? Would personal circumstances other than income be taken into account -- age, family status etc? Will loans be forgiven at some point? How will that point be determined? Is income contingency financially feasible for the government? At what point does the administration of such a large system outweigh the financial benefits to the government, ie, at what point is it as cost-efficient to give grants rather than administer loan repayments, which are already heavily subsidized?

We believe that some form of non-repayable assistance -- probably in the form of interest subsidies and remission for low-income graduates -- will necessarily have to accompany an income-contingent loan repayment plan.

In conclusion, our general advice to the government in any revision to OSAP, including moving from grants to all loans, is that you keep in mind the changing composition of the post-secondary population and its needs. OSAP is an outdated, youth-oriented program in drastic need of renovations. The Canada student loans program is even worse. A new student financial aid program must recognize that a student's ability and willingness to incur large debts is largely influenced by his or her personal and social circumstances, as is the student's ability to study full-time. A new student assistance program must be flexible enough to accommodate the changing demographics of student populations and the concept of lifelong learning.

The Acting Chair: Thank you, Thomas. We have about three minutes for each caucus, so Mr Martin, you are first.

Mr Martin: Thank you very much. You certainly bring some interesting perspectives and I think some very real concerns to the discussion here this afternoon, as we look at the changing demographics of the student population in Ontario. I said last week that I was at a graduation at a community college two weekends ago and that the age of students going across the stage was quite varied and really actually interesting and exciting.

What we are doing in this exercise is to explore any possibility that there is to make this program more workable and to improve student accessibility to the process. One of the options being studied at the moment is the income-contingent loan program that has been tried in Australia. The little that I know of it so far certainly presents some interesting potential. However, it would probably need to be adjusted somewhat to meet the real needs of people in Ontario and perhaps still be combined with some form of grant system.

Right now that system seems to be based on a person's ability to repay. If you become a doctor, apparently your ability to repay would be better than if you were going to be doing something else. What I hear you saying here -- and perhaps you can tell me if I'm wrong -- is that there may indeed need to be some contingencies put in there other than the ability to repay, such as your age, the size of your family and some other notions of that sort.

Is there any way we could introduce a program, perhaps on this model, that would provide a greater level of comfort for you, representing the part-time student reality in the province at the moment?

Mr Hui: I guess what we see here is that, looking at the demographics of part-time students, it's not as homogeneous as a 24-year-old undergraduate would be. You have to take into account the various other parameters like age, family status, the other life commitments of the part-time student graduates in instituting programs.


Mr Martin: If we were able to do that, would you be more comfortable with this notion?

Ms Fisher: I think that, in general, moving from the power of the banks to dealing with the government is probably a positive direction to go, because as I know from personal experience, repaying the banks is not a pleasant experience at all. They essentially deduct it out of your account as soon as they find out where you are, and there's no negotiating with them in terms of what percentage of your income you're going to pay. You're going to make the minimum payment and that's about it.

If the government were willing to be more flexible than banks are, and if we are going to have a loan system, which looks inevitable, then this kind of system, taking into account maybe my family status or whether I have children who are entering university age or things like that, certainly would be an improvement, and I'd be more comfortable with that than I am with the current loans program. Does that answer your question?

Mr Martin: Yes, it does. Thank you.

The Acting Chair: Mr Wilson, are you prepared at the moment to pose a question?

Mr Jim Wilson: Sure. Thank you, Madam Chair, I was just consulting with the research there. I should put on the record also that one of my vast experiences at the University of Toronto was I was the speaker for the Association of Part-time University Students. That was actually my job in fourth year, and I'll admit, their committee per diem was higher than ours, Madam Chair. Great bunch of people.

I really just had a simple question, because I think the points you made are very clear in your presentation, and I thank you for that. But I was just wondering: In the statistics you present on page 2 with the number of students who did not apply for student financial assistance, how many would have applied and were turned down?

Ms Fisher: Actually, I was responsible mainly for that survey, which was conducted in the fall. We did find that about 30% or so had applied. Almost all of them had been granted some form of assistance. We didn't differentiate in the survey as to what kind of assistance they got, whether they were accessing a part-time Canada student loan or giving that up and taking an Ontario student loan.

You also have to take into account that this was done at the University of Toronto, and a part-time student there is someone taking 3.5 courses or less, so this would incorporate a group of students which the ministry does not consider part-time students but we do, so it's probably those students who are taking three and 3.5 courses who are applying for assistance and getting it. The ones who are taking less than three courses are not applying for it because they already know that, for the most part, they're ineligible.

Mr Jim Wilson: Just a brief new question, Madam Chair. Because the government, I gather, is having a bit of a task force and it won't really make any moves or announcements, or at least any moves won't be implemented until the beginning of the 1993-94 school year, have you given any thought, or are you already getting together with OFS and CFS and the graduate student unions and those people? Because I think your income contingency repayment comments are perhaps just a little bit different than what OFS has presented. My experience with government lobbying -- because I also used to be the university government commissioner in my second year on the Students' Administrative Council at U of T -- I'm giving you a progression of where I went --

Mr Daigeler: Didn't you used to date Shelley Martel?

Mr Jim Wilson: I also used to date Shelley Martel at that time, just for the record. It's already been recorded in the Legislature. We might as well have it here too. Shelley was a great Tory then; I don't know what happened in the meantime. None the less --

The Acting Chair: I thought this was supposed to be a short question.

Mr Jim Wilson: This is a short question. Just for my own sake, are you getting together with a common front?

Ms Fisher: You're talking about provincial changes, not federal, right?

Mr Jim Wilson: Right. I think that's really all that's within the mandate of this committee.

Ms Fisher: We're already represented. I sit on the ministry's OSAP review committee, and I'm in pretty close communication with OFS, but I think what you have to understand is that we're in a completely different situation than are the majority of full-time students in that most of our students don't get anything already, so we're in a situation where, if they gave us loans, I suppose we'd say, "Well, fine, we'll take anything," but if you asked us ideally what we'd like, sure we'd like access to the grants like everybody else has, but --

Mr Jim Wilson: But you're being realistic?

Ms Fisher: We're being realistic.

The Acting Chair: Mr Daigeler, please.

Mr Daigeler: You mention in your brief that the federal government is considering tightening the interpretation of part-time students. The course load requirement would be 80% in order to qualify as a part-time student. Where did you get this information from and how serious are those plans by the federal government?

Mr Hui: I was at a meeting with Mr de Cotret and his ministry department last week -- I think it was April 30 -- of a committee of the national advisory group for the student assistance program and it was presented to me by the Secretary of State in separate documents. They are very seriously considering -- they are actually recommending -- changing the definition of full-time students from 60% to 80%. They also mentioned that New Brunswick has been considering the same changes.

The changes mean a great deal of impact to part-time students. As you know from Canada student employment, the program for part-time students is completely non-existent in the way that it's being structured. By changing it to 80%, it means there's a group of students, between 60% to 80%, who are going to be excluded from getting any kind of Canada student loan at all.

Mr Daigeler: I think you're quite right that that obviously would have very significant consequences for students and part-time students as well, as would the income contingency plan.

I have one other question, because we're quite limited in time. At the beginning of your brief, you mentioned that students in many non-credit, non-post-secondary courses and programs are not eligible for OSAP. Can you describe a little bit which students you have in mind there and whether you envisage some support for these types of students as well?

Ms Fisher: I should probably answer that. The types of students we're talking about are students who would be in, for example, what we call continuing studies or continuing education programs. In particular, Ryerson has a lot of students who are ineligible because they're in continuing education; some of them are. It's very complicated there.

In the community college sector, I think some colleges report they have a majority of students who are in what we call non-credit -- not programs -- courses. They would be taking English as a second language, some computer courses perhaps, all sorts of things.

Universities often offer what are called pre-university programs and things like that, where if you don't have the necessary academic prerequisites, they will accept you for a year. You take a course or two and if you are successful you are admitted to the university. Those students are not eligible for full OSAP, although they are eligible for the Ontario special bursary plan, but you essentially have to be on social assistance to access that.

So those are the kinds of students we're talking about. The more I found out, the more I realized how many there are. There are an awful lot of them.

I would argue that some form of assistance, either in an expanded Ontario special bursary plan, because these students generally need the money for tuition books -- their living expenses are either covered by social assistance or they have some other means, but some kind of funding for these students is appropriate. To some extent, a student is a student is a student. Does it really matter what they're taking as long as they're taking it for altruistic reasons, which may be to further their employment or to become a better educated person or for whatever reason?

Often these programs are the more appropriate way for these students to go. You don't need a four-year computer science degree in order to get ahead in technology. You might need a couple of programs here and there, but if you're only going to get funding for the four-year degree, which one are you going to choose? You are going to choose the four-year degree that you don't necessarily need. So this is a quick way for people to improve their conditions, but the impediment is that the tuition is often quite high and there is no funding for it.

Mr Daigeler: I think that's an excellent one, a very, very, significant one that hasn't been raised yet. I really appreciate your bringing that forward.

The Acting Chair: Thank you both very much. I think the entire committee has appreciated your different view on the matter.



The Acting Chair: Our last presenter of the day is Mr John Clarke, representing the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Would you please come forward, sir. I think, Mr Clarke, you've been before a committee that I've been on before, so I'm sure you know all of the traditions.

Mr John Clarke: Absolutely.

The Acting Chair: There is a 20-minute time limit on this particular presentation.

Mr Clarke: I hope this time I can afford to be fairly brief. I should perhaps begin by acknowledging that this question has not been a major area for our coalition in the past. I therefore don't like to come here to pretend to an expertise that doesn't exist. At the same time, when this question came up and the possibility of our involvement was raised, we felt it important to add our voice. The whole question of the adequacy of OSAP and the very notion of eliminating the grant system seemed to strike at the heart of questions of vital interest to low-income people, and on that basis I am here today.

First of all, I would like to make the point that the erosion of OSAP and the possible elimination of the grant system has to be placed in a certain context. At the moment, our coalition finds itself combating at every level, and with dubious success in some cases, the whole concept of the level playing field with regard to social services. The erosion of social services, and very vital ones, seems to be highly advanced. It seems to have gone a very long way in the recent period. We are indeed living in a period when governments generally are accepting the logic of rolling back services that have been considered part of the social fabric, part of a way of life. It seems to us, as an anti-poverty organization, that all political parties seem to be embracing that direction, differing only in degrees of enthusiasm or reluctance as they go about performing that work.

I think that agenda of eroding social services, including education, is enormously tragic and enormously counterproductive. We are dealing with a situation where every ministry and every department of every ministry seems to scramble for the means to save dollars and to cut back, but lacking is a total picture, lacking is an understanding of the impact of introducing specific cuts in other areas.

As we watch this process of cutbacks unfold, it seems very clear to us that governments will certainly pay and society will certainly pay for them. Money can go into education or money can go to providing welfare cheques. Money can go into the health care system or ultimately money can go into locking people up in prisons. Ultimately, when you fail to provide basic services, you still end up paying at the end, and that seems to us to be very clear in this particular instance.

With regard to post-secondary education, the disadvantages that low-income people face are already enormous, and in many cases crushing and ruinous. The whole question of the debt load and the fear thereof with regard to receiving a higher education is an enormous question for low-income people considering that as a particular option.

When I functioned with the London Union of Unemployed Workers as a front-line advocate for people having particular problems, one of the major questions that constantly came up, one of the most frequent issues, was the question of low-income people who had taken on an OSAP debt load and now found themselves being plagued by debt-collecting companies, often with extreme ruthlessness and scant regard to any concepts of fairness or natural justice in the way they went about frankly hounding people. The truth is that, however you cut it, a low-income person is going to be repelled by the notion of a $15,000 debt load. There is no way around that.

I think the US experience has been enormously instructive in that regard. We can perhaps take it as axiomatic that there is a correlation between being black and being poor in the United States of America, and yet in the United States, if you look at the experience, moves away from a grant system in the early 1980s saw a 4% drop in college enrolment for black people. I see no reason why, with regard to poor people in Ontario, we should expect the experience to be any different.

We're aware of the income-contingent loan repayment proposals and we would have to say that we find those extremely disturbing and extremely dangerous. We see them not as a solution to the problem, but rather as a cover for the problems that are likely to arise, for a likely violation of the rights of students to an education, or potential students to an education. The fact is that however you dress it up, however you cast it, the prospect of a massive debt load is going to continue to deter people. It's going to continue to repel low-income people.

A person living in poverty, hoping to receive a post-secondary education, is clearly going to say that a government that can end OSAP grants is also going to be a government that can tighten the screws with regard to the repayment schedules, and he's going to take very cold comfort from some proposal to go about the repayment schedule prudently.

I think more important, however, is that the whole concept of a modest and reasonable process of paying back strikes at something much more important: that in our society we need to be getting away from the whole question of a user fee system in areas of post-secondary education, and we need to be moving in precisely the opposite direction.

I think that what we are looking at as we see the possibility of retrenchment, of moving back, is the thin end of the wedge. If it's agreed that people must finance their own way through school, then what is to stop the logic of precisely such a move invading the lower levels of education, invading primary schools, the notion that education becomes not a right but in fact a privilege, and a privilege based on ability to pay?

In fact, I think if such a system were implemented the very clear message that would be send out to poor people in Ontario is that higher education is frankly something that is not for you. For the poor, there is retraining but for the rich there is education. I think that's an extremely dangerous message to be sending out today.

We're told that 40% of the jobs that are going to be created between now and the end of the century are going to require 16 years of education. If that's the case, then moves to deny low-income people the possibility of higher education is to say to them very clearly, "For you, dwindling welfare payments and the low-wage ghetto are your only options."

I think we must reject the concept that education is something that is denied low-income people and I would certainly urge you to work in the direction of strengthening OSAP, strengthening the access to post-secondary education and rejecting the concept of its erosion.

The Acting Chair: We have about three to four minutes for each caucus. I have three members of the NDP who want to speak. I don't know whether you've done any negotiating or not. Mr White was the first with his hand up. Mr Owen would like to ask a question as would Mrs Mathyssen.

Mr White: I will be brief. You have complaints with regard to income contingency, but also in terms of how OSAP is administered and raises a barrier for the poor, for working people. What would you like to see change with OSAP?

Mr Clarke: Unfortunately, I haven't had anything like the amount of time I would like to look into the question, but generally I think what we need to be seeing is a move in the direction of increased grants, increased adequacy. I understand there has been a significant erosion in terms of what people are actually able to receive to get them through school. I think the status quo that exists at the moment where people are encountering debt loads of $15,000 on a fairly routine basis to get through university is a ruinous barrier with regard to the opportunities for low-income people to access higher education.

Education and retraining are held up as a sort of new religion that masks the fact that the problems in our society in some ways are caused much more by the destruction of jobs than the lack of training. None the less, if low-income people are to have an equal opportunity to go for the new jobs that exist, then very sweeping and fundamental changes have to be enacted in the direction of moving away from user fees and creating an accessible, free higher education system.


Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): John, you made a comment with respect to training for the poor and alluded to the fact that it's the more well-off individuals who can become educated in the strictest sense. Could you expand on that a little bit?

Mr Clarke: I think we see, really at every level, moves in the direction of retraining for low-income people that often have a very inadequate way of proceeding, that often provide handouts of one form or another to employers rather than retraining programs that genuinely meet the needs of people, that genuinely provide people with the skills they want and need to acquire.

On the other hand, through university there is the possibility of receiving some education that will enable people to at least have some real opportunities to break out of the low-income situation. Certainly that's the desire of enormous numbers of people. We see great numbers of single parents working to get to university against formidable barriers.

It's not just a question of OSAP and how it's structured; it's the whole question of a person, let's say a single mother, living in poverty, experiencing the most rampant difficulties on a daily basis and combating those difficulties. If they're to be overcome, there's a need for every possible means of assistance and support to be provided, not in fact the opposite; not people being discouraged at every level, barriers being put in people's way, a ruinous debt load being run up in the process of trying to do something people are told will make them useful and contributing members of society.

I think the notion that there should be broom pushing for six weeks and then back on UI for the poor and higher education for those who can afford it is an offensive notion that needs to be rejected.

Mr Jim Wilson: John, you made a number of excellent points in your presentation, but I worry about the overall philosophical thrust of some presentations where I would argue that a debt load of $15,000 is an impediment for so-called rich people also. I mean, we found out through the latest budget that only 3% of Ontarians make over $80,000 a year, 10% make over $53,000, and if you read the papers, most of those people certainly don't consider themselves rich.

I am the youngest of six. My father has been unemployed more in my life than he's been employed. I don't come from a rich family, although I'm a Tory; I'm told I'm rich all the time, but I never understood that.

Mr Owens: You're rich in experience.

Mr Jim Wilson: I worry that this debate is going to be another poor versus rich people, a divide and conquer society which I don't think helps anyone. I wonder if you have any comment on that, because I think the government should be responsive to the entire sector of society.

Mr Clarke: Government should be moving in the direction of a universally accessible post-secondary education system that is accessible to poor people and is accessible to others too. I don't think there should be ruinous debt loads incurred for people generally; I think that should be the goal of social policy. In terms of the enmity between rich and poor, I suppose I have to plead guilty to inciting some of that, but I think perhaps the poor have been somewhat provoked.

Mr Jim Wilson: I agree.

Mr Daigeler: You've done very well in providing us with this overall framework in which to look at this question, and that's very useful for us because we can get caught up in the particulars of any program and forget what the overall effect of it is. You've spelled that out very clearly, based on your experience. I think you were here when the part-time students were making their presentation, and you may have heard me ask the question there what they meant by providing assistance for students who are in non-credit courses. Were you there?

Mr Clarke: No, I wasn't.

Mr Daigeler: There was a very interesting comment, and I'm just wondering whether you would like to remark on it as well, that education, in my opinion, unfortunately is still too closely associated with degrees and with colleges and universities. There's also an element, as to what they were talking about, of continuing education going on that doesn't necessarily lead to a degree but is still lifelong learning. It's perhaps more than training.

They were saying that perhaps we should look at some assistance for these students as well. We have the Ontario bursary program which provides limited assistance. I just wonder whether the groups and the people you are in touch with are or would be looking much more at upgrading their educational achievements, even if it's not at a college or a university, if there were more assistance available.

Mr Clarke: At the beginning I acknowledged a lack of expertise in the area, and I certainly don't wish to spout forth on things I have limited knowledge of, but it certainly seems true that there are many areas in which education can be pursued outside of university, useful areas that need to be pursued. I would argue, however, that the whole gambit of higher education is something that low-income people should have equal and fair access to, including university.

Mr Daigeler: I can appreciate that. I was just struck by the presenter who said that sometimes people pursue a long education even though they could perhaps achieve the same objective with a different kind of course. They're going after a four-year course because that's required, even though the same objective could perhaps be achieved by a two-year course or a different way of providing the education.

When you mentioned that by the year 2000 or so most of the jobs will require 16 years of education, frankly I have some difficulty with that and wonder to what extent that 16 years is driven by interest groups that simply say, "Well, in order to be this you have to have had that many years of education," rather than to say, "Is it really necessary to have 16 years in order to have that qualification?" I just raise that as an issue I'm personally still struggling with.

The Acting Chair: Mrs Mathyssen, you've been very patient this afternoon. We've got two minutes left. Do you want to use it for your questions?

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): I have to admit there are about 10 questions I would like to ask, but I am going to restrict myself. We heard from the Ontario Federation of Students that a grants-only program would be the best solution and that it should be funded by progressive taxation. Could you comment on that, please, John?

Mr Clarke: I can only concur. I think the notion of a grants-based system is the only reasonable way to provide equity. It's the only reasonable way to ensure that in the final analysis, it isn't being wealthy or having wealthy parents that determines how far up the educational rung you can go. To introduce such a system is only a partial equalization. The whole question of one's background, the whole question of one's social environment, would still place low-income people under enormous disadvantages.

As to the question of funding it through a progressive tax system and the needs to make that tax system infinitely more progressive than it is at the moment, I would certainly think that our coalition will be more than ready to join OFS in raising such a demand.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Clarke, for coming. We often hear you and sometimes see you on TV, and then we get the opportunity to see you in person from time to time.

The committee will be adjourned for this evening. We are going to meet in committee room 2 again tomorrow at 3:30. Those are the plans as of this moment. You will be informed if there are any changes.

The committee adjourned at 1728.