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BUDGET 2022: Failing marks for no new investments in post-secondary education

The 2022 federal budget—while strong on delivering essential programs that will benefit precarious workers, students and others—gets failing marks for doing little to ensure equitable and affordable access to university and college education and contribute to creating quality jobs in post-secondary education over the long run.

CAUT welcomes historic investments in public health services championed by organized labour--including dental and pharmacare. But CAUT warns that the absence of a significant investment in post-secondary education is short-sighted and may limit the government’s long-term capacity to deliver on ambitious new commitments.

“We are slowly coming out of a global pandemic that has exhausted our staff and faculty in the post-secondary education system—and further depleted the already over-stretched capacity of universities and colleges to do research as well as educate and train nurses and other frontline workers,” says CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith. “How do we now also contribute to ensuring that we have the right people trained to deliver new federally-funded programs?”

CAUT and its 125 member organizations across the country have been raising the red flag about the impact of chronic underfunding of post-secondary education combined with rising tuition costs and a skyrocketing cost of living.

“One-in-three academic staff in Canada are working contract-to-contract, some earning less than a living wage—and racialized, Aboriginal and women post-secondary teachers are less likely to have full-time, full-year employment,” says Austin-Smith. “Meanwhile, almost half of all students graduate with student loan debt. Reduced access to post-secondary education perpetuates systemic racism and inequities in our country – and leaves many Canadians falling farther behind.”

“The federal government has a critical role to play in ensuring that everyone from coast-to-coast-to-coast can afford to access post-secondary education and workers in the sector earn decent salaries,” says Austin-Smith.

CAUT welcomed the government’s allocation of targeted research investments through the Tri-Council agencies in the Canada Excellence Research chairs program. However, in line with the recommendations of the Fundamental Science Review, renewed investments in investigator-led research are required. 

CAUT says what is urgently needed is a national post-secondary education strategy with the provinces and territories that includes a minimum of $3 billion in direct federal funding. CAUT points to the federal government’s recent success in establishing the early childhood education and mental health transfers, both of which serve as models for improving federal government funding for the PSE sector in the future. The impending review of the Canada Social Transfer (CST) is also an opportunity to examine the federal government’s support for the PSE sector.