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Londoner doling out $6.2 billion for Canadian post-secondary education

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | News | September 12th, 2005

Over the summer Premier McGuinty made several changes to his cabinet lineup, and as a result a familiar face was appointed to the posting of Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

After spending almost two years as Labour Minister, London West MPP Chris Bentley was promoted to the post-secondary position in June.

“I'm absolutely delighted to be handed this position when post-secondary education has such a definite future in this province,” Bentley said concerning his new cabinet posting.

“I think my position will ensure the work of Fanshawe will continue to be supported.”

The cabinet shuffle came after the release of the Liberals highly anticipated 2005 budget in May, which announced an investment of $6.2 billion to Ontario's colleges and universities.

Bentley said the funding would ensure that students have access to teachers, technical support, student related facilities and library resources. Educational institutions will be allotted the funds and be held accountable by the provincial government.

The new contribution, which Bentley will now be administering, is the largest multi-year investment to post secondary education and training Ontario has seen in 40 years.

The post-secondary budget, entitled Reaching Higher: The McGuinty Government Plan for Post Secondary Investment, focuses on the growing financial dependency students face when attending higher educational institutions. Bentley said the 2005 budget reinforces funds that were continuously cut from education and financial assistance, over the past decade.

On August 16, Bentley, along with Norman Riddell of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, announced a plan to provide 16,000 first-year college and universities students with educational grants up to $3,000.

The Millennium-Ontario Access Grant, which is subsidized by both the McGuinty government and the foundation, will be issued to students with a family income of $35,000 or less.

Bentley, who has lived in London since 1967, worked as a Criminal and Labour Lawyer and Law Professor at Western before joining the Liberals in 2003.

He replaces Scarborough East representative Mary Anne Chambers, who has taken over as Minister of Children and Youth Services.

Bentley said, “Our goal is to make education even stronger and help post-secondary education achieve its full potential.”

Other budget highlights include:

- 135,000 low and middle-income students will receive more financial assistance towards the 2005/06 school year

- Post secondary enrollment will increase over the next four years, specifically targeted at enhancing access for Aboriginals, persons with disabilities, Francophones and new Canadians.

- Continue tuition freeze for 2005/06 school year and new tuition framework to come into place by September 2006

- Expand eligibility for student loans and increase weekly amounts for single students

- Reduce how much money middle income parents are expected to contribute towards their children's education

- Increase collaboration between Ontario colleges and universities

- By 2010, annually invest $220 million to the expansion of graduate education enrollment

- Increase annual apprenticeship entrants by 7,000 and invest $17.5 million annually by 2007/08 to create better access to prospective licensed trades people
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