4.10.6 Protecting access to excellence in post-secondary education

Growing tuition fees and student debt are pushing post-secondary education out of reach for many Canadians. Tuition fees for Canadian universities have increased an average of 21% since 2009. On leaving university, one in three students will be weighed down by over $20 000 of debt. Cost is the primary barrier to post-secondary education, both academic and trades-training.

While education is a provincial matter, the federal government can provide funding to increase the number of spaces at post-secondary institutions and can offer needs-based scholarships and bursaries to reduce financial barriers for potential students. This can easily be achieved through earmarked transfer payments.

Greens believe that universal access for every qualified individual to affordable post-secondary education and training is a basic right. Greens seek to eliminate financial barriers that currently prevent access. There are significant social returns when the government invests in education; it is the key to equity of opportunity, personal growth and enrichment, informed democratic debate and decision making, social mobility, and the Research and Development that are essential to deal with climate change and a multitude of other challenges. It is the key to a good economy and a prosperous society.

It is a perverse policy to claw-back student income. On income earned by students over $100 per week, every dollar is clawed back under the Canada Student Loans Program In-Study Income Assessment.

The global economy is severely affected by crises such as the impact of an aging population and climate change. These challenges put pressure on the standard of living in industrialized nations. Canada can face these crises. To do so, we will need the best-educated, highly-trained, and creative workforce possible. Excellence in post-secondary education is pivotal to achieving this, and should be prized as one of our most valuable social policies. The Green Party is committed to innovative and cost-effective improvements to our system of higher learning.

We are transitioning into an information-based society. This transition is necessary for a green economy, which requires research, information, and innovation. What this transition requires is a robust post-secondary education system built around principles of accessibility, affordability, quality, accountability, ease of information sharing, and green innovation.

Green Party MPs will work to ensure that post-secondary education is based on realistic and effective policies and the following principles:

  • Quality and excellence;
  • Accessibility that is based on equality, merit, and willingness;
  • Affordability for individuals;
  • Accountability of funds;
  • Ease of information sharing;
  • Green innovation.

Green Party MPs will also:

  • Increase federal transfers to provincial governments, ear-marked and tied to post-secondary education;
  • Increase federal student grants by 25% (at a cost of $173 million);
  • Eliminate the Canada Student Loans Program In-Study Income Assessment;
  • Extend grant availability to Graduate and Doctoral Students at a cost of $31 million;
  • Increase access for First Nations education by removing the 2% funding cap and fully funding the program backlog (at a cost of $424 million);
  • Establish a federal research program aimed at understanding and reducing barriers to post-secondary education in the absence of the 2001 Canadian Millennium Research Program;
  • Work with the provinces to support lifelong learning programs aimed at enabling older Canadians to pursue post-secondary education to gain new knowledge and skills;
  • Increase funding for a needs-based Canadian National Student Loan and Bursary;
  • Work to eliminate student debt as a national goal;
  • Invest in Early Intervention Programs through partnerships with other governments and through additional funding for Targeted Nonrepayable Assistance, Academic Support, Mentorship, and Campus Exposure Programs with an emphasis on low-income, first-generation, and Aboriginal students and communities;
  • Transition from costly and regressive tax-based credits and RESPs as methods of supporting an affordable post-secondary education system;
  • Allow all students eligibility for guaranteed student loans up to their rate of tuition regardless of parental income;
  • Decrease the lending rate to that of the prime rate and extend the time period for which student loans must be repaid;
  • Extend the payment grace period to two years after graduation in which time loans are interest-free;
  • Establish a Student Education Funding Committee, with at least 50% of members having student debt, whose purpose will be to create a student education funding system that better serves the needs of Canadian students;
  • Establish an Opportunity Grant under the Canada Student Grants Program for graduate students with high financial need;
  • Exempt academic materials from the GST and/or any other federal sales taxes that may be implemented in the future;
  • Increase funding to federal research councils by 15% annually for four years;
  • Support integrated education and co-operative programs through the restoration and expansion of the federal student summer job program;
  • Establish a Pan-Canadian set of comparable data and statistics to measure quality and progress similar to those of the medicare system;
  • Invest in undergraduate research fellowships through the federal research councils to support innovation and increase research capacity;
  • Earmark provincial transfers for post-secondary education outside of the broad-based Canada Social Transfer fund;
  • Ensure that a portion of earmarked provincial transfers is long-term and predictable, provided that provinces remain accountable to quality metrics including increasing tenure track professors, as well as a higher ratio of professors to students;
  • Ensure that copyright policy allows students to properly conduct and create research in a manner that is consistent with a thriving information commons, fair dealing principles, and moral rights;
  • Emphasize funding to the federal research councils for environmental innovation and design, including but not limited to renewable energy, smart growth, environmental restoration, and climate change response strategies;
  • Support expanding industry-based job training and apprenticeship programs to address shortages of trained workers in specific industries and workers in need of retraining.