Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of the series! In the last two parts, I outlined 6 problems that Ontario has with the post-secondary system. In part 1, I focused on the external issues which included staff strikes, high tuition costs and the steep admission cutoffs. While in part 2, I looked at how anxiety and stress impact students in school. In this part, SOLUTIONS! Yes, solutions to the problems I outlined. I will look at each problem and outline a strategy to solve the dilemma. These are the most realistic ideas I could come up with to solve the issues but they might be not the best solutions. Radical plans and subtle changes need to be done to the system. I will focus on universities more but colleges will also be able to benefit from these changes.

High Tuition Costs

The simplest way to solve this problem is for the government to step in and regulate the costs of the programs. Ontario has contributed to resolving this problem by setting maximum percentage increases to tuition costs. In 2013, the government announced that within the next four years, undergraduate tuition costs can only rise 3% each year.1 But there is more to this problem. Not only are domestic tuition costs rising, but international costs are skyrocketing. In 2014, the total revenue from international students’ fees was 620 million, but that doubled to 1.28 billion, four years later.2 Also, universities and colleges are seeing this as their primary market as the number of foreign students attending a university in Ontario grew 88.5% since 2010.3

The number of foreign students attending a university in Ontario grew 88.5% since 2010

Ontario does not regulate international fees which leads universities to use this market to gain more money. International students are paying $21,559 more annually when compared to a domestic student.4 With universities exploiting this tactic, less space opens up for domestic students as their spots are being filled. So, let Queen’s Park step in to cap increases and stabilise the tuition costs. More regulation for international students is needed. This is the best way to offer a budget-friendly way to receive a degree or diploma. With only certain universities and colleges being private, the government can step in to prevent students from graduating in debt.=

Increasing Averages to Obtain Entry

With averages to receive admission into Ontario’s universities and colleges increasing every year, Ontario needs a plan to make it simple to get in but, competitive enough so that students will survive first year. In part 1, statistics showed that despite the increase in students applying to universities and colleges, the number of enrollments went up a small margin. In 2007, the averages were reasonable to get an acceptance letter. This applies that universities and colleges should increase their amount of students they accept each year to react to the increase in students applying. But this yields a much bigger problem. Campuses have to grow to adhere to the demand. Universities have to install more rooms, lecture halls and seating to withstand the influx of students. This a major downside of this solution as it will be hard to expand campuses.Picture of How to Get Good Grades

Another solution to this problem is by distributing the resources among the universities and colleges in Ontario to make a more diverse landscape for students. This yields a more balanced playing field. The reason top universities and colleges attract more students is due to the state-of-the-art resources and professors they hired. Instead of the best professors working at the top two or three universities, make them work at multiple schools to offer high-quality education at any location. Universities could disperse resources to the remaining schools in Ontario to give a great learning experience. Some universities have certain programs that are exceptional due the resources, faculties, professors and connections it has to the location it is in. Companies favour universities due to the level of education that students receive there. This will allow students to apply to any university and still receive high-quality education when compared to the top schools. This drives down the averages needed to get in as fewer students are targeting one university for one specific program. More students will end up going to their local campus which leads to a drop in applications.

With more students applying to other universities, money flows into these institutions and this leads them to improve their resources and facilities. More companies will be interested in these lower ranked universities and choose graduates from there instead of the top 1% of schools. With more students, resources and better professors, their reputation will rise and they will be able to fund research which puts them on the international map. This will take time, money and a plan to hire professors to teach there. But if this plan can be created and educators can split the influx of students to the 22 universities, then averages needed to get in will decrease and even out at a grade which will be far less than what the system has currently.

Fighting Depression and Anxiety Among Students

In the last post, it was clear that mental health is important in today’s stressful lives. Statistics proved that more students are having to deal with these issues and universities and colleges are not keeping up with the standard to help resolve the problems. They have also spent sparsely in the past few years to help students who are suffering. More needs to be done to combat this issue.Image result for depression

The most important advancement is for schools to educate students on how to deal with depression, anxiety, and stress so they can withstand the impacts that university or college can have on them. Coping techniques are important as it helps reduce the symptoms, and it provides a way to concentrate on other thoughts. Each student is different and have unique ways to resolve the mental obstacles they face.

Next, more needs to done to provide time for each student regardless of their needs. With universities and colleges not increasing their counsellors for listening and helping students, other ways are needed. As mentioned in the last part, there was a 334% increase of phone calls to the helplines among people under 25 since 2010.5 Students are outsourcing their treatment to other places because their schools are not providing tools to help. Most students are paying for counselling in their tuition but they are not aware of the service. The problem is that despite paying for these helpful methods of coping, the students who seek help are waiting too long before they can sit down with a specialist. This is unacceptable when mental health accounts for most of the accommodations at top universities.

Depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses are important and are a major factor that determines if a student graduates from a post-secondary school. If more help is provided to students, the less they have to suffer alone as they battle through the symptoms.

Students who seek help are waiting too long before they can sit down with a specialist

Conclusion

There are easy ways to fix the post-secondary system and there are hard ways too. Some problems involve a lot of research and planning to make sure that the money is being well spent. While some require a simple plan to prevent those issues from happening again. In this part, I discussed solutions for high tuition costs, escalating grades, and the fight for depression. The escalating entrance marks problem has the most ambitious solution with a goal to distribute resources among institutions. That plan solves many problems but might start more. The depression solution involves money to combat the diseases as it needs more social workers, teachers, and other helpful people to calm students down who are feeling the full force of the mental struggle. Decreasing tuition costs uses the government’s power to standardize the costs to prevent students from graduating with debt. Not all problems are completely solvable and some take time, money, and other ways to impact the system. But the goal is to reduce these problems and prevent them from plaguing Ontario students again.

Again, if you are a student or know someone who is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, anxiety, or any other mental illness, please (please) dial 1-866-925-5454 (Good2Talk) to talk confidentiality to a counselor. For anyone else, dial 1-800-273-9255. International calling lines can be found here.


Thank you so much for reading the newest post in this series. I know it has been a while since I posted but I will be posting the final part in this series next week for sure!

If you have other solutions to these three problems that we face, please drop a comment! It will be nice to see other perspectives on these issues.

Likes, comments and follows are always greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reading,

Bhavik

References:

1 The Globe and Mail
2 CBC
3 CBC
4 Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario
5 The Toronto Star

Featured image is of Queen’s University.

Pictures: Queen’s, Instructables, Diabetes Care Community

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