TORONTO–Students across Ontario expressed some tentative satisfaction at the Ontario government’s announcement to spend $200 million on campus renewal projects. The funds are targeted for improving energy efficiency, campus safety, and the renewal and repair of existing infrastructure.
“The average age of a university building in Ontario is 30 years, and many facilities are desperately in need of repair,” said Jen Hassum Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario. “We have been calling for public funds to ensure campus buildings are in good repair and environmentally sustainable.”
During the last provincial election students called on all political parties for a commitment to dedicate Ontario’s share of the federal government’s $1 billion Infrastructure Trust Fund-$390 million according the 2006 Federal Budget-to a Sustainable Campus Building and Maintenance Fund that would address the environmental impact of Ontario campuses via environmental retrofits, campus greening, and infrastructure renewal.
Today’s funding announcement is a signal that college and universities should not be levying specific ancillary fees for capital expenditures. A $200 million class action lawsuit against Ontario’s public community colleges has been launched in the wake of expanding use of illegal ancillary fees for campus infrastructure improvements. In its pre-budget submission to the Ontario government, the Canadian Federation of Students called for an additional $50 million to offset the current revenue stream to Ontario colleges based on illegal ancillary fees.
“We have seen college and some university administrators increasing ancillary fees to fund core operational expenses, which is illegal,” said Hassum. “The provincial government should ensure that the money is transferred with an understanding that universities and colleges should be reducing their reliance on ancillary fees for constructing or repairing campus buildings.”
The $200 million announcement is only half of the initial $390 million promised by the federal government in the 2006 budget. In addition, the 2007 Federal Budget also dedicated $315 million to Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions to be released in the 2008 budget year. “Students look forward to a subsequent announcement from the Ontario government to ensure that it spends the remaining $500 million that was promised to Ontario in both the 2006 and 2007 federal budgets.”