A few dozen UOIT students staged a walkout at the school’s north Oshawa location followed by the Charles Street campus in the downtown core earlier today.
An air horn called the attention of students and at 11:30 a.m. they walked out of their classes to rally outside, calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to abolish tuition fees and give students debt relief.
DropTuition UOIT spokesperson and newly-elected Student Association President, Jesse Cullen, had the crowd chanting and cheering as he introduced the event’s speakers and engaged the crowd.
“Recently, in Cape Breton, the president of Cape Breton University released an open letter… and they called on all of the federal parties at the federal level for a fully-funded, post-secondary education system right across Canada from coast to coast,” said Cullen. “So, what I’m doing here as my first act as president elected of the Student Association is calling on president Tim McTiernan to put his money where his mouth is and release an open letter calling for fully-funded, post-secondary education right across this province and Canada.”
DropTuition UOIT has taken the position that post-secondary education is a right and tuition should be, over time, abolished and the student loan system should be replaced with a grant system. The group gained the support of the UOIT Faculty Association, along with other groups in the community.
“We’re seeing an awful situation for young people in Ontario and we don’t want to see that happen again in 10 years for our kids or right now for our kids, we don’t want to see that for the next generation,” said Denise Martins, a Young Worker representative from the Ontario Federation of Labour. “It’s no longer just Denise and her debt, it’s our problem. It’s something that’s happening to everyone and it is important for people to know,”
Student advocates across Canada have been rallying to fight tuition fees for years but some people view the struggle facing post-secondary students differently.
“I feel like all the students signed up for university knowing the cost of it. Yes, I do think it is ridiculously expensive but the cost is pretty much the same across all universities in Ontario,” said Paula Davila, a Biological Science student at UOIT.
UOIT registrar Brad MacIsacc says tuition at UOIT is in line with other Ontario schools and the university provided students with $7 million in financial aid last year, including bursaries, scholarships, and wages paid through work placements.