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University of Toronto students Paul Nirenberg and Tanya Brekelmans study in Robarts Library on Feb. 15, 2012. (Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail/Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)
University of Toronto students Paul Nirenberg and Tanya Brekelmans study in Robarts Library on Feb. 15, 2012. (Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail/Matthew Sherwood for The Globe and Mail)

Schools and universities should consider user fees and tuition hikes: Drummond Add to ...

The Drummond report’s 57 education recommendations deal a body blow to many flagship government initiatives, from smaller classes to the new 30-per-cent tuition grant. While they suggest modest spending increases – 1 and 1.5 per cent respectively for elementary/secondary and postsecondary spending – the report also includes some pointier prescriptions:

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School bus fees

The cost of transporting students to school has ballooned from $629-million in 2003 to an anticipated $845-million in 2012. The report wants parents to share the burden, or consider using options other than school buses, by allowing boards to charge a “modest” user fee set by the province.

Schools go 7-12

Get ready for more schools housing Grades 7 to 12, the report says. This year, the province provided some $237-million to underused schools as “top-up” funding to help them cover their costs. Instead, the report hopes to see low-enrolment high schools take in some or all of the Grade 7 and 8 students in their areas.

Too many aren’t teaching?

Ontario’s school boards have added 13,800 non-teaching jobs since 2003, while student enrolment declined 6 per cent. And although the report is careful to say stakeholders should decide together on ways to save within a “climate of trust,” one suggestion is to cut 70 per cent of those new non-teaching positions.

Performing for dollars

The report urges government to take firmer control of postsecondary quality by having institutions negotiate agreements that would tie some funding to setting objectives and measuring outcomes, including graduation rates, teacher performance scores and student satisfaction indicators.

Tuition should rise

The current 5-per-cent cap on postsecondary tuition hikes should continue, the report argues, but schools should be free to adjust individual program fees under that overall ceiling – an idea sure to please universities and enrage students. To compensate, several other suggestions are designed to shift a greater share of student aid money to low-income students.

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