Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is calling for significant, meaningful reforms to higher education in Ontario to serve the citizens of one of Canada's fastest growing demographic regions and to help drive the development of a unique regional economy with a global reputation for excellence.
This message is contained in Conestoga's submission to the Rae Review, which is currently evaluating post-secondary education in the province and which will be filing its final report in January 2005 to the Government of Ontario.
"There is no question that Conestoga is very fortunate to be located in such a diverse and dynamic area," says Conestoga President John Tibbits. "Our relationships with business and industry in this region have helped make us the excellent institute of technology we are. More than 40 per cent of the regional labour force has taken a course at Conestoga. Our annual economic impact is more than $1.4 billion.
"Much more needs to be done, however," he adds. "The universities in this area have contributed much to the progress and reputation of Canada's Technology Triangle, but the very success of these institutions and their ever-rising admissions standards mean that many people who seek to better themselves through higher education have to leave the area. Conestoga can address this situation by growing, diversifying and finding innovative new solutions to serve the region better, thereby making the community and the economy stronger. We need to increase access to post-secondary education in this region to strengthen our local economy and provide more opportunities for youth."
The key elements of the Conestoga paper are: stronger relationships between Conestoga and school boards; increased prominence and opportunities for apprenticeship as the "third pillar" of post-secondary education (along with colleges and universities); standard and reliable transferability of college credits to university programs; more flexible and innovative college-university program development and a variety of college degrees to meet regional economic needs in business, health and engineering technology. In addition, there is need for increased and stable funding for the college sector to correct years of underfunding, and need for more progressive financial aid programs for students. The college sector receives significantly less funding per student than school boards and universities do.
"The Rae Review gives us unequalled opportunity to remake post-secondary education in this province for the 21st century," President Tibbits says. "I strongly encourage everyone in the community who has a stake in higher education to participate in the local town hall meetings being presented by the Rae Review."
These town hall meetings take place on Wednesday, November 24, 7:30-9:30 p.m., in Rozanski Hall at the University of Guelph and on Thursday, November 25, 7-9 p.m., at the Conestoga Recreation Centre on the Doon campus in Kitchener.
The full text of the Conestoga submission to the Rae Review is available on the Conestoga Web site, www.conestogac.on.ca.