Queen’s Park moves to let Ontario colleges expand degree programs

Oct 22, 2021 | Campus News, News

College leaders in Ontario have applauded the provincial government’s proposed measures to let them expand degree-granting programs, but a student organization says affordability, housing and mental health still need vastly increased support.

Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, said having more college degree programs, part of a package of reforms included in the Red Tape Bill introduced in the Ontario legislature on Oct. 7, will mean more opportunities for students.

“We’re excited that the government has announced its intent to move to three-year degrees and applied masters,” Franklin said. “There’s a whole lot of areas where businesses are clamouring for students with these credentials, and we haven’t been able to deliver.”

Franklin told Humber Et Cetera that alumni might also choose to return to school to complete an advanced degree.

“It’s wonderful that we may have an opportunity to do that for them now by using micro-credentials to help and using our resources online to fill any courses that they are missing,” she said.

Jason Baryluk, with the College Student Alliance, said college students have urgent needs beyond the changes proposed by the Progressive Conservative government.

“It was nice to see the credential reform, it will help students,” said Baryluk, the CSA’s advocacy director.

“[But] we need more support,” he said. “There’s a massive affordability issue. There is a serious issue in terms of housing and mental health. And the government has not moved on those.”

Franklin said the credential change will boost an economy in urgent need of skilled workers.

“We’re going to come out of this pandemic into an enormous labor shortage,” she said. “So, great for graduates because there’ll be a lot of jobs looking for highly qualified people.”

“This edition of masters’ credentialing, the removal of the four-year degree cap and then the addition of three-year degrees will mean that colleges have more flexibility to make sure they meet the needs of the labor market, help our students graduate into great jobs, and make sure that local employers have the talent they need,” Franklin said.

Baryluk argued, however, that without increased support students will have trouble completing programs to get out of the starting gate.

“Our graduates and our students need support so that they’re able to get out there and work to their best ability and kind of kickoff their lives,” he said.

“When it comes to situations that are once-in-a-lifetime as a pandemic what needs to happen is spending, and we need to spend a lot to put people back to work… we need to make sure that happens,” Baryluk said.

Humber College student Erin Simmonds told Et Cetera she agreed the expansion of college degrees means “more students will want to apply for post-secondary education.

“With more degrees coming, I think students would want to have a good education with the credentials they need for their career,” she said.