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Feds Responds to Announcement from Provincial Government
Today, the provincial government announced changes to Ontario’s tuition framework for universities, as well as changes to the student financial aid model, including:
- A 10% reduction in domestic student tuition across all programs for the 2019-2020 academic year, following by a tuition freeze in 2020-2021
- Changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), including restrictions on eligibility requirements, debt caps, and increases to parental contribution expectations, among others
- An online opt-out option for all non-essential non-tuition fees
“While a reduction in domestic tuition has the potential to make education more affordable for some students, other details in today’s announcement are cause for concern, and will have negative impacts on the accessibility of education in Ontario,” said Matthew Gerrits, Federation of Students (Feds) Vice President Education. “Changes to OSAP mean that students from many families will leave university with an increased load of student debt.”
While a reduction in the cost of domestic student tuition is beneficial to students, the decision to reduce OSAP eligibility and replace grant funding with loans will not address the financial burden placed on many students who are unable to take on high levels of debts.
Institutions have become increasingly reliant on student tuition fees as a result of limited government funding through operating grants. As a member of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), Feds has long advocated for restoring public funding to post-secondary education and creating a fairer cost-sharing model. Feds is concerned that despite a reduction to tuition fees, today’s announcement will actually result in the transfer of the financial cost of education further onto students via changes to OSAP.
Additionally, these proposed changes would provide students the ability to opt-out of non-tuition fees related to non-essential campus initiatives. This decision may include student association fees, and could therefore negatively impact Feds’ ability to provide critical services that support students and their mental health, quality of education, and student experience needs. Some of these services are provided at a discount as a result of a group buy.
Core services include:
- Mental health and peer-support programs
- Prescription drug coverage and health coverage
- Dental coverage
- Employment for students
- UPass transit agreementt
“This announcement will have major implications for student life and student advocacy at Waterloo,” said Gerrits. “Our ability to provide crucial services to our students, like mental health support, health and dental coverage, and UPass, may be significantly compromised depending on the implementation of this policy. We urge the provincial government to closely consider the significant negative effects of this decision.”
Feds will continue to advocate for an equitable and fair student financial aid program, the ability of student associations to meet the needs of their members, and other policies that improve the affordability and accessibility of post-secondary education in Ontario.