Letter to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs


January 17, 2017

 

Re: Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on behalf of Career Colleges Ontario

Dear Mr. Rennie,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit Career Colleges Ontario’s (CCO) written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs as outlined below:

Ontario is facing many fiscal challenges, one of which includes the costs of public post-secondary education.

Ontario’s career colleges are well positioned to meet increased student demand for skilled training without increasing direct government costs.

Ontario’s career colleges contribute to Ontario’s economy by providing highly qualified graduates in hundreds of essential, skilled fields such as Applied Arts, Business, Healthcare, Human Services, Information Technology, Services and Trades.

Our sector consists of approximately 92,000 students. Annually, it produces more than 70,000 graduates at a minimal cost to taxpayers because the sector receives no direct operating funds from the government.

Students who attend career colleges are usually older, more likely to be female and new immigrants. Typically, they are looking for flexible, hands-on training that will facilitate their entrance into the job market.

By choosing to study at career colleges, those 70,000 graduates save taxpayers more than $1 billion per annum. At the same time, the career college sector generates more than $94 million in business and payroll taxes. The sector is efficient, productive, flexible, innovative and accountable. It is able to shape and expand its programming to quickly adjust to market forces, thereby complementing the educational offerings of the other members of the post-secondary education system.

Ontario’s career colleges are appreciative of their inclusion in the Ontario Student Grant Program announced in last year’s budget. It is of particular value to students of career colleges given the new access to student grants for mature students, increased support for sole support parents and reduced spousal contribution requirements.

All of these transformative changes should result in increased access for students to career colleges, which will lighten the load for public institutions and, in turn, save money for taxpayers.

Having said that, fiscal impediments that act as potential disincentives to Ontario’s students attending career colleges remain. These are described below, together with recommendations on how to resolve them.

HST - Career colleges are deemed to be providers of an exempt service with no access to input tax credits. This policy artificially inflates the level of tuition for career college students and places a larger burden on their needs for financial assistance.

Recommendation:

Educational services provided by career colleges should be zero rated so as to allow them to claim input tax credits.

Tuition Cap on Second Career Programs - The Ontario Government’s Second Career program places an arbitrary $10,000 cap on the amount of tuition that it will fund for an unemployed adult to attend a career college program of study, whereas in many cases, the same student could receive full funding for tuition in excess of $10,000 when attending a publicly funded institution.

The imposition of this arbitrary cap has significantly reduced the options and freedom of choice for Second Career students to attend the most appropriate post-secondary institution.

In future, this policy will continue to restrict a student’s right to choose the best educational option, and will serve as a barrier to more fully utilizing the resources of the career college sector as a way to address increased student demand and provincial deficit reduction-related financial considerations.

Recommendation:

Any tuition cap policy associated with funding programs must be applied equally, regardless of a student’s choice of educational institution. At the very least, the tuition cap should allow for cost of living indexing on an annual basis.

Canada Student Loan/Grant Program - The Canada Student Loan program has had a loan program for students who wish to study their program on a part-time basis.

Students attending Ontario’s career colleges were eligible for funding under this program until July 31, 2010, when Ontario introduced its own part-time loan program, which includes the Canada Part-Time Student Loan and associated grants.

However, when Ontario introduced its program, it excluded students of career colleges, notwithstanding their programs meet the criteria of the Canada Part-Time Student Loan and associated grants program. The program eligibility criteria are and have been that the program must be approved as a full-time degree, diploma or certificate program, and delivered by a designated institution. The program must be a minimum of 12 weeks, in a 15 week period.

Recommendation:

Career college students should be allowed to apply for Canada Student Loan assistance or alternatively Ontario’s part-time loan assistance as they were previously eligible

About CCO

Career Colleges Ontario (CCO) is a not-for-profit association that was established in 1973 to advocate on behalf of private career colleges in the province.

The association’s purpose is to help governments, key decision makers and the public understand the critical role its members and their students play in supporting Ontario’s post-secondary education system and improving the province’s economic well-being.

CCO represents 240 Ontario career college campuses.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

Sharon E. Maloney, LL.B.

Chief Executive Officer, Career Colleges Ontario


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