Province’s changes in tuition, fees could could put some student services ‘at risk’

DCSI board chair Charles Wilson. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

The Ontario government’s decision to make changes in tuition, grants and ancillary fees could pose problems for students at Durham College and UOIT.

Premier Doug Ford’s government recently announced some ancillary fees will no longer be mandatory for students to pay. The government says students will be able to opt out of these fees which could impact resources such as student unions, college newspapers, campus radio stations, and more, according to student government officials. (The Chronicle is not funded by student ancillary fees, but Riot radio is.)

Charles Wilson, acting general manager of the Durham College Students Inc., says opting out of ancillary fees could put Outreach Services on campus “at risk” if the government doesn’t deem it an “essential service.”

One service Wilson is most worried about is the campus food bank.

“The biggest concern is our services don’t exist in a vacuum,” says Wilson. “There’s a lot we don’t know yet, but one thing is clear to me, any changes to the student government fees put us at risk.”

According to an Outreach Services report from December, 198 students visited the food bank in one month alone.

The government announced Jan. 16 tuition costs for post-secondary students would be cut by 10 per cent. It was also announced that free tuition would no longer be available to low-income students.

This tuition cut does not apply to international students.

Low-income students will, however, have priority access to Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants if they fall under an overall income of $50,000. Those above this income may have more difficulty applying for and receiving grants.

The government also eliminated the six-month grace period which prevented students from incurring interest charges upon graduation.

Wilson says the changes in tuition and fees could cause problems.

“What the government has done really is eliminate the tax credit and the grants,” says Wilson. “The balance between grants and loans are going to change and that can be problematic.”

Wilson says people who graduate have will already have “significant debt,” especially in the case of university students, who generally pay more for their education.

UOIT Student Union president Jessica Nguyen says she is concerned for university students, who pay more annually and attend school longer.

She fears these changes in OSAP are going to leave students in further debt.

“At our university, there are a high number of students who use OSAP, about 85 per cent,” says Nguyen.“Now, students who are just graduating will have to find jobs immediately.”

Nguyen says the main concern for the student union is the cutting of fees, possibly eliminating UOIT’s clubs and societies.

“The concern for the student union is we’re going to become optional,” says Nguyen. “That may reduce what we can supply students with. We want them to grow and have a positive experience.”

In the past, Nguyen says clubs and societies have been able to host “large scale” events, which may no longer be possible if fees become optional.

Wilson says while he has his concerns, he believes student unions and associations will have the opportunity to “show their worth.”

“It’s not going to be business as usual, but it’s not going to be the end,” says Wilson. “We’re working on getting things in order.”