Don't Come Back
(by John P. Palmer)
Last fall, my first column for The Academics carried the implicit title, "Welcome to Western; now go home." The gist of the article was that you don't pay much for an education here, and you get what you pay for.
Things have not improved: the province has clawed back some funding; the last provincial budget did not contain the pre-election-promised support for the university; and while Ontario universities will be allowed to increase their tuitions, the allowable increase is small compared with the budget shortfalls the universities are anticipating.
There is simply no way, given the foreseeable revenues, that universities can even come close to balancing their budgets without some serious cost-cutting. And no matter how hard people try to eliminate waste and inefficiencies, cost-cutting means that on average program quality will decline.
Faculties and departments are reducing support services; classes are becoming even larger; and even more mega-sections are being scheduled for the future. At the same time, increasing workloads coupled with morale problems among both faculty members and graduate students will contribute to a growing number of complaints from undergrads about inaccessibility to help with their courses.
Things are bad and getting worse. So it is especially worth the effort this year to ask yourself whether you want to return to Western in the fall.
In thinking about whether to return, you will have to consider your options. Unemployment rates are high, though likely to fall a bit; and any employment options you turn up may not look very attractive. As a result, you may decide that dropping out of university for a year or two is not a very desirable option. Besides, who is to say that the quality of education will improve in meantime?
If you look at other educational options, you are likely to be disappointed: the quality of education is slipping at all Ontario universities because they are all facing similar provincial budget cuts. It doesn't make much sense to go elsewhere if they are facing similar or worse problems.
Universities in other provinces are not faring much better. Federal budget cuts, along with provincial budget crunches elsewhere have undermined the quality of education in nearly all Canadian universities. The concept of world-class education seems to be fading rapidly from the minds of most Canadians. Sadly, the only high-quality options are in other countries, and they are very pricey.
So after you've seriously considered your options for next year, you may not like any of the alternatives very much; and the conclusion you reach is likely to be depressing.
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