Brock president applauds Ontario budget announcements

Saying a lack of financial resources should never be a barrier for post-secondary education, Brock University President Jack Lightstone applauds the Ontario government’s budget announcements made Thursday.Among the highlights of the 2016 Ontario Budget was the Ontario Student Grant, which will cover the cost of tuition for students from households making less than $50,000 per year.“There’s a real focus on making university education affordable to those who have the least means to afford it and I think that’s an excellent thing,” Lightstone says. “Whatever barriers there are for people to go to university, lack of money shouldn’t be one of them.”According to 2012 Statistics Canada data, the average household income in Niagara was just over $68,000, making it one of the lowest census metropolitan areas in Canada. For single-parent families, the average was around $37,000, and for one-person families, the average was less than $26,000.About 70,000 households in Niagara, or 43 per cent of all households, earn less than $50,000 per year, meaning the financial barrier for post-secondary education would be eliminated for a large portion of the Niagara population.Ontario tuition fees are some of the highest in the country. The budget document says families earning $30,000 or less have about a one-in-three chance of going to post-secondary institutions.Thursday’s budget announcement also included plans to continue working toward bringing daily GO Train service to more regions, including Niagara.That expansion would be a “huge advantage in the recruitment efforts,” for Brock University and Niagara College, Lightstone says.“The areas on the western side of the GTA and Hamilton are some of the most important areas from which we draw our student body,” says Lightstone. “When we ask students why they didn’t come to Brock, they often say it’s because it’s too far. It’s not a statement about actual measured distance, it’s about the ease of getting here.”Lightstone says GO Train service would also help attract faculty and staff who live outside of the region.“Many working families living in the Hamilton/Burlington/Oakville area have one parent who’s heading into Toronto for work and another heading into Niagara,” he says. “ GO Train service to Niagara would help make it easier to recruit and retain top talent.”Lightstone acknowledged the ongoing efforts of St. Catharines MPP and Cabinet Minister Jim Bradley to keep the GO Train expansion efforts moving forward.

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