If the cost of tuition isn’t already on the minds of countless postsecondary students, it is certainly the topic of recent prominent discussion and debate.
A group representing postsecondary students across the country has spoken against the federal government’s introduction of a new loan program for students.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the launch of the Canada Apprentice Loan, an initiative intended to assist trade students in paying for training in the skilled trades.
The initiative, however, isn’t enough to assist students struggling to pay tuition, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.
Jessica McCormick, the national chairperson of the CFS, has called on the federal government to further develop the Canada Student Grants Program, a federal assistance program that does not require students to repay funding, unlike the Canada Apprentice Loan program.
“Canada’s current reliance on a loan-based system of student financial assistance has resulted in a generation of graduates burdened with high student debt,” said McCormick in an email to The Medium.
McCormick also expressed concern regarding inequity among students who are able to front tuition fees during their time in the classroom and students who obtain loans to pay off their education following graduation.
“Those who can afford to cover the cost of a postsecondary education upfront only pay the sticker price, while those who cannot afford it must pay the sticker price plus accrued interest,” said McCormick. “Being from a low-income background should not limit access to college or university, nor should it result in some students paying more than others because they can’t cover the upfront cost.”
According to the UTM Office of the Registrar, 52% of current undergraduate students receive assistance from OSAP.
In the 2013/14 school year, UTM distributed 620 scholarships to domestic and international first-year students.
The same year, 216 full-time students also received UTM grants as well as the Ontario First Generation Bursary through OSAP. International students, however, are not eligible to receive this funding.
In an interview with The Medium during her January 15 stop on campus, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne defended her government’s approach to assisting students through methods such as the “30% Off” tuition rebate available to eligible students, which has aided 230,000 students, according to the premier.
McCormick, however, pointed to concerns regarding the accessibility of the Ontario rebate due to eligibility requirements.
According to the provincial government’s website, to be eligible for the 30% Off rebate, students must be studying full-time, belong to a family that earns under $160,000 in gross annual income, and meet citizenship and other requirements.
“This money could be more equitably distributed by investing in an across the board tuition fee reduction for all students,” says McCormick.
The CFS has also called upon both the provincial and federal government to fully fund postsecondary tuition.
“Federal and provincial governments should increase investments to Canada’s colleges and universities,” said McCormick. “In turn, students are able to access the education and training they need to get a decent job and subsequently contribute to the taxation system that funds public services like education.”
The sentiment is also shared with UTMSU as the union launched a “Drop the Fees Coalition” on January 14, intended to lobby for lower tuition fees.
During the coalition launch, UTMSU representatives declared their mission to eventually eradicate postsecondary tuition fees.
For many years, neither the federal nor provincial governments has responded to traditional CFS-Ontario means, such as marching in Queen’s Park chanting “Fuck fees” and other slogans.
Further south, however, there have been some changes.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to fully fund the first two years of student education at community college.
The proposal, entitled “America’s College Promise”, requires that students completing a degree or certificate maintain a 2.5 GPA as a part-time or full-time student in order to receive the subsidy.
Premier Wynne, however, told the Canadian Free Press that she is not planning to follow suit, claiming that it might limit the number of students who would benefit.
UTMSU did not respond to requests for comment on the effectiveness of current government funding for students or its plans for working toward eliminating tuition fees.