For my third and final post on the Drummond Report, I will focus on the second area that I am most connected with, post-secondary education. I will then move on to analyzing the provincial and federal budgets.
The same principle in my opening blog applies, that we need to look at education being scaled to people’s ability to pay, rather than giving rebates to everyone (I forgot to mention the tax-free savings account before, which is another good example of a regressive program). The Ontario Tuition Grant is obviously the example of this most on people’s minds, and has a cut-off set so high that many people who could afford to pay, are getting a rebate. We need to continue to move away from government as give of gifts to all, to the government targeting people in low-income to try to level the field.
Drummond points out an important reality in the university sector, that research is really the prime currency. This is leading universities to create large internal research funds, rather than relying on faculty to be solely supported by external funds. This is often done to support ‘weaker’ researchers, and is due to the fact that all faculty must be researchers as well as teachers. Drummond suggests allowing flexible work-loads so that those who are good at teaching can just teach, and those who are good at research can just do research. This way universities can save money from internal research funding and keep costs down.
The second important problem Drummond highlights is the proliferation and duplication of programs. It is in the best interests of universities to offer every possible program for every possible student so that they can attract the most students, and the best students. This is blurring out into colleges as well, who are increasing their degree granting programs or partnerships. This leads to more levels of administration as each department and program has a director, or chair, or manager. Instead, what we need to be open to is university specialization. Having fewer departments or programs at each university site would mean that students might have to travel further abroad to find the program they want, but would save millions in terms of administrative costs. Similarly, colleges should absolutely not take on granting of degrees that are offered in universities in the same city.
Lastly, is the sticky issue of salaries and benefits. Everyone wants their salary to increase at least at the rate of inflation. However, like the physicians who have asked to be taxed more, professors have been doing well and could survive a freeze or a decrease in pension contributions. The university essentially pays 3-1 for my pension contributions, which is great, but honestly, isn’t entirely necessary as we also earn above average. If there is anyone who should take a hit in the budget, it is high-income earners, so that more can be done for those in poverty.