Ford’s tuition plan: more harm than good

Photo credit: Meagan Secord

Written by Meagan Secord, Jackie Graves, Kathryn Fraser

From new classes and new friends to a new environment, students in post-secondary go through many changes. Now, Premier Doug Ford’s tuition cuts threaten to not only destabilize the post-secondary institutions they attend but their lives and futures.

At first glance, the 10 per cent tuition cut may seem great to students, but a closer look shows the overall plan is anything but great.

There will be no more six-month grace period for interest on student loans, no free tuition for low-income students, and a lower threshold for students eligible to apply for grants. These are just a few of the changes coming in the 2019/2020 academic year.

According to Statistica, Ontario has the highest tuition rates of all provinces in Canada. This 10 per cent cut, while appreciated, still won’t bring Ontario’s tuition down to that of any other province Statistica says. It will also force schools to cut programs in order to balance their new budget.

It’s also important to note international students, who pay close to four times what domestic students pay, don’t receive tuition cuts.

If students want a lower tuition fee after the ten per cent cut, the government has given them the option to opt out of ancillary fees.

Being able to opt out of these extra fees will ultimately hurt the campus community by taking away activities and services that bring students together. Student life is a large factor when choosing a college or university, and cutting back on that community could make students feel less inclined to attend certain schools.

Additionally, the removal of certain fees puts student associations, recreation, support groups, U-pass and other resources at risk. Post-secondary institutions stand to lose more than they will gain with these cuts.

Universities will lose about $360 million due to the ten per cent cut, according to Global News, while colleges stand to lose $80 million. The institutions are being told by the Ford government they have to “adapt” and “innovate” to cope with these losses. These tuition cuts come just a year after a province-wide college strike that lasted five weeks.

Ford’s government is essentially telling colleges and universities to sink or swim.

Another change to OSAP is the removal of the six-month grace period that will make paying back loans harder for students upon graduation.

This debt puts pressure on students to get jobs as soon as possible.

Ford is effectively creating a more competitive and desperate job market while adding to youth unemployment.

According to Stats Canada, a 2018 report shows the youth unemployment rate of Ontario being 11.10 per cent. That marks a 0.3 per cent increase since last year.

Along with the cuts and opt-outs, free tuition for lower-income students is no longer available.

While grants are said to be going to students with a family income lower than $50,000 annually, this doesn’t take into account mature or independent students who are estranged from their families.

For example, if students come from higher income families and receive no assistance from them, they will struggle and possibly fall through the cracks of the new grant system.

The Ford government needs to realize the implications the new tuition plan will have on the future generation. As important as it is to cut back on Ontario’s debt, Ford shouldn’t expect students to shoulder the burden. And students shouldn’t expect anyone to speak for them.

Students, make yourselves heard.