It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that education would be the next point on the Conservative agenda. On January 17, 2019, when the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Merrilee Fullerton, unveiled a new program led by Ontario’s government headed by Premier Doug Ford, things seemed to have turned towards the better for students. Finally, we were getting closer to education being a right rather than a privilege. This sentiment only lasted for a mere few hours.
1. “Making university and college more affordable by lowering tuition fees by 10%”
2. “Choice for student fees to help students keep more money in their pockets”
3. “Ensuring sustainability of OSAP financial support to help students who need it most”
All points sound rather appealing, but by now we know how to read between the lines. Let’s try that again, but less vague. With the new OSAP plan:
The money to replace the 10% that would be coming from students will now have to be cut out from the inside, meaning...
a) ...the 10% might be taken out of student’s pockets, but this time in the form of student life funding cuts.
b) ...the 10% might be taken out of staff and faculty pockets, through layoffs ( resulting in even bigger class sizes).
c) ...funding across campuses overall might be completely relocated with institutions having to now pick and choose what aspects they want to keep (starting a competition between student programs, mental health initiatives, etc).
This a low blow on student life. What it means is that there is a very high chance that student groups will start to die out without being able to receive proper funding. The argument that students will be released from having to pay for groups they do not support is fluff. If a postgraduate student has ever stepped foot on campus and engaged with any form of “student life” (from concerts to tutoring sessions, to free agenda booklets, newspapers, radios, etc.) they automatically made use of the “student fees”. It is what makes universities and colleges the experience some call the best years of one’s life.
The six month interest-free grace period on loans will be eliminated, meaning students are starting to accumulate interest right after graduation, forcing immediate pay and accumulation of further debt, regardless of being employed or not. In addition, the bracket of those who are eligible for grants will become smaller, while free tuition for families with an income of 50K and under will be eliminated. Implemented by the previous government, the free tuition was more than shaky, but scraping it all together and so quickly instead of building a stronger solution caught many by surprise. Looking at what this means for society as a whole, those who come from less financially privileged backgrounds now have an even lesser chance of starting, continuing and/or finishing their post-secondary education, while the career market is continuing to scream “a postsecondary degree is the new high school degree” louder and louder.
Changes will come in effect in the 2019-2020 school year as the tuition reduction is to be completed by September 2019 followed by a “freeze” (restricting the increase of tuition fees) for two years starting in 2020.
1. Contact your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP)! Find your MPP’s contact info here
2. Contact Merrilee Fullerton’s office: 1-800-387-5514 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Contact Doug Ford’s office: 416-325-1941 or click here to submit a request
4. Come out to Yonge-Dundas Squares on January 25th to protest these changes! Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/590198821418635/
Long term solution? VOTE in any and every election you are eligible to vote in! (Also, register to vote!) Do everything possible to have your friends vote too. Make a fun day out of it: voting followed by a friend outing, reunion, or family dinner. Make a date out of it: voting followed by coffee and a discussion on what changes we can start pushing today for our own better future (or the weather…whatever you enjoy talking about more). Make a nice self-care day out of it: voting followed by a mandatory day of all things solo, calm, quiet, and refreshing—needed by all at some point.
The initial announcement came in strong and promising, but it was only a matter of hours before the realization of what it truly meant settled in and for those around to become unsettled. The fact of the matter is that this is NOT what students were looking for when they asked for lowered tuition fees. No matter what party you support, what opinions you may have on student initiatives, where the money goes… the bottom line is education is a right. And like any other rights, it needs to be fought for if we want its quality to last and become better.
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