Sima Sahar Zerehi – Toronto, Ontario – The Ontario Government started the year with a good news story for some postsecondary students by announcing a new 30% off tuition program on January 5th.
Qualified applicants will be able to save thirty percent off the average tuition, which works out to be $1,600 for undergraduate university or college degree students and $730 for college diploma and certificate students for the school year.
McMaster undergraduate student and spokesperson for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) Huzaifa Saeed touted the benefits of the grant at a media conference held at the Legislative building in Queen’s Park.
Saeed who is in his forth year of study noted: “coming to this country has been a great opportunity for me but at the same time it has been a financial burden.
This grant personally means a lot for me, apart from being a student I work two different jobs – I work weekends, nightshifts and after school. I can understand that $1,600 doesn’t look like a lot of money when you compare it to tuition fees that are $5,000, $6,000, or $7,000 but for a lot of students it’s equal to the part-time jobs that they hold which can be 10 to 15 hours per week.”
۱۹-year-old Samar Akash, an accounting and finance student at the University of Waterloo and a member of the Young Liberals also spoke about the possible benefits of the grant for her and her family.
She explained, “It’s been very difficult to get though school especially because I have two older siblings in postsecondary study and a younger one who will be going to university in September.”
She added, “for me personally my tuition is about $18,000 per year so I don’t know if this will help a lot, but in terms of generally for my family it may do a great deal. My siblings currently hold part time jobs – for myself I’m in a cooperative education program – for us to be able to take less loans from OSAP would be beneficial because paying OSAP back is very difficult.”
To date Samar owes about $10,000 to $14,000 in student loans a number that she predicts may be tripled or quadrupled by the time she completes her studies.
While some student organizations have heralded this announcement as a step in the right direction The Canadian Federation of Student’s (CFS) has raised some concerns. The CFS a bilingual national organization that represents over a half million students from more than 80 university and college students’ unions across Canada and more than 300,000 full-time and part-time students in Ontario has raised some concerns about the new grant.
In a detailed brief (available at http://cfsontario.ca/en/section/191) CFS Ontario has provided a thorough analysis of the shortcomings of this grant including the fact that a broad range of students including students in ‘second-entry’ programs like teacher’s college, law, medicine, physiotherapy and dentistry will not be eligible despite the fact that they face mounting tuition fees and large debt loads.
CFS Ontario has also pointed out that part-time students, who may be pursuing their education alongside holding a job in order to be able to afford the cost of their studies will be ineligible for the grant.
Acknowledging the criticism that the grant has received Saeed noted, “there are groups and students that are left out and there will be criticisms but I think the government has shown an open mind to addressing those.”
The grant is calculated to give Ontario students 30% off the average tuition; as such it will keep pace with increased future costs. Hence, regardless of changes to education rates, eligible Ontario students can expect to get thirty percent off their tuition while the program remains in effect.
The Ontario Liberals did not managed to find money out of thin air for this new initiative. In fact, the creation of this tuition grant has meant the elimination of the Ontario Textbook and Technology Grant as well as the Ontario Trust for Students Support and the phase-out of the Queen Elizabeth II Aiming for the Top Scholarships. All in all, this initiative can be seen as more of a shuffling of funds when it comes to post-secondary education rather than an injection of new funding dollars.
According to the Ministry more than 300,000 undergraduate students will be eligible for the tuition grant and students who have already received OSAP will be automatically considered.
In order to be considered for the grant students must be out of high school for less than four years and their parents’ gross income must be $160,000 or less.
To make this program more accessible measures have been put into place so that students with disabilities may receive the grant for up to six years of study.
This measure is one of several initiatives by the McGuinty Government to position themselves as forerunners when it comes to post-secondary education.
Speaking to the ethnic media, Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities boasted about the Ontario Liberal’s record on post-secondary education.
He stated: ”We put $6.2 billion dollars more into colleges and universities that were there when we were elected in 2003 – so when a quarter of a million more students are getting yeses they are getting yeses to a much better invested government. A government that isn’t taking a half a billion out like the previous government did, but putting $6.2 billion dollars in.”
According to the Ministry, Ontario has created 200,000 additional post-secondary and apprenticeship spaces. In addition, by re-instating student access grants the Liberal government has tripled the number of grants available to students since 2003.
To make the program more accessible to today’s web savvy students the Ontario government has created a Twitter account (@OntarioTCU30off) as well as a Facebook group for the campaign (30off) students can also access the application for the tuition relief program online at ontario.ca/30off.