Hudak puts colleges, three-year degrees first

Leader of the Opposition, Tim Hudak believes college training a strong option. Courtesy: Progressive Conservative Party

Leader of the Opposition, Tim Hudak believes college training a strong option. Courtesy: Progressive Conservative Party

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is hoping to raise the profile of Ontario’s colleges with a strategy he calls ‘college first’.

In Paths to Prosperity, a white paper released early last month, the PCs outlined their strategy for reimagining college education.

Rob Leone, the PC MPP for Cambridge who co-authored the white paper with Hudak, said they want to make colleges a much more viable choice for students, one that leads to good job opportunities.

“We want to make sure our colleges are supported in a way that maximizes their contribution to society,” Leone said.

The Conservatives want to change the way students think about college, recognizing the role experience-based education plays in finding a career.

Bhalinder Bedi, president of the Humber Students’ Federation, said changing the way people think about colleges has to begin early, at home and in high school.

“What picture is painted of college and university to you by your caregivers at a young age will determine what you strive to become,” Bedi said.

The Conservatives’ strategy also calls for an overhaul of the credit transfer system and a limit on the number of four-year degrees offered at the college level, encouraging colleges to offer three-year degrees instead.

This would link back to the party’s overarching goal of getting students educated faster, and with less accumulated debt, while also putting a system in place that would allow students to transition into university or graduate school.

Rick Embree, associate vice president of planning and development at Humber, said he supports the improved credit transfer system, but worries the depth of content allowed by a four-year program may not easily transition to a three-year model.

“We’re concerned the three-year may, if we’re not careful, not allow the transfer into the university system,” he said.

Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities, said he worries some of the other ideas put forward in the white paper, particularly the proposal to eliminate the Ontario Tuition Grant, will limit choice for students.

“I don’t think the way to build a strong attraction of people into skilled trade or college opportunities is to take away opportunities at the university level,” he said.

Duguid said increasing promotion of college education and the resulting job opportunities may be important, but it should not be done at the expense of access to universities.

“That piece makes some sense, and we’re keen to do that, and we’re doing that, but you have to leave the choice to students themselves,” Duguid said.

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