Meeting brings out cohort concerns

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By Jonathan Fowlie

Students, professors and others concerned about the future of post-secondary education in Ontario met at Ryerson last Tuesday night to discuss the problems facing Ontario’s post-secondary education system.

Alex Taman, a grade 11 student at Danforth Collegiate Technical Institute and one of three panellists, spoke about the “anger, frustration and fear” she feels at being a “guinea pig” for the province.

Taman is talking about the double cohort, a by-product of the elimination of the OAC year from high school. When Taman graduates in 2003, there will be a huge influx of university applicants caused by the doubly large number of students graduating from Ontario high schools that year.

And while the provincial government and universities have known about the implications of the double cohort since early 1999, there will still be close to 30,000 graduating high school students whose applications will be denied simply because of a lack of space at Ontario universities.

“In less than a year there will be over 75,000 students applying for university,” said Taman, wiping tears from her cheeks. “They’re not going to be ready to accept all of us and we don’t know what they’re going to do about it.”

Two other speakers shared Taman’s fear for her future.

Michael Prue, MPP Beaches-East York, told the audience that “education is a universal right that is slowly being chipped away.”

Prue, a member of the NDP, went on to criticize the Ontario Tories for not spending enough money to prepare for the double cohort, blaming them for allowing tuition increases to drastically outpace the rate of inflation.

He pointed out that if the province had used the money from the $2.2 billion corporate tax cut and the $500 million put towards the private school subsidy, there would be enough money to roll fees back by 10 per cent.

David Noble, a history professor at York University, said that if the leaders of universities and members of the private sector are allowed to grow closer, the quality of education will continue to diminish.

“The only people who are going to make this government believe that every student has education as a right in this province is you,” Prue told the audience. “It’s the students who stand up and say no to the kind of government we have, and the kind of policies we have, that will change what is happening.”

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