The highs and lows of free tuition

Free tuition is coming soon to low-income households—but at what cost?


About a week ago, Kathleen Wynne and her liberal government announced that within her budget plan, tuition and postsecondary education costs will be free to those who are considered to be of low-income status. Taken at face value, this policy will enable aspiring students who previously required financial aid from OSAP and needed to scrimp and save as much as they could to enter college or university—something that can be celebrated among a percentage of people—to receive postsecondary education at the cost of nothing.

However, taken altogether in the context of new policies and actions being taken by the Ontario liberal government, this new policy is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, a distraction to worrying costs and mounting debt. I believe that this policy may benefit a percentage of low-income students while coming at the expense and anguish of a large percentage of taxpayers, specifically the middle class and seniors, who depend on services that are being gutted or drastically affected.

According to an article published by The Financial Post, Ontario is the most indebted borrower sub-sovereign state in the world, with a debt of over $307 billion. Yikes! A problem arises: is the Ontario liberal government able to afford complete grants and tuition costs to all low-income students? The (surprising) answer is yes. According to Patrick Brown, the leader of the Ontario PC party, Ontario taxpayers can expect to pay a $387 increase in their energy bill, with a $2 rebate to even things out. Additionally, $2 billion was wasted on the Smart Metre expense, which did not indicate how Ontarians can save energy, and instead hydro rates will be expected to increase over 42 percent from 2013 to 2018. This will not be enough to counter mismanagement and offset the free tuition, Patrick Brown also notes that in the last year, healthcare in Ontario was severely cut, of which there continues to be an assault. As he has said in multiple question periods between the premier and the opposition, over 1,200 nurses were cut all across Ontario. One of the most affected areas was the Windsor Regional Hospital, with 120 nurses being cut. Eight hundred thousand residents are without a family doctor due to private practices closing their offices and services because it has become too costly for them to operate. In addition to the cuts to front-line healthcare practitioners and nurses, over $815 million was cut to physician services, which certainly has an overlap with the severe cuts in nurses and doctors, but to advancements and technologists in medicine as well, leaving 23,000 seniors in Ontario on a long-term care list, as Brown and his associates cite and calculate. Clearly, there needs to be serious reform and adjustments implemented to repair Ontario’s energy and healthcare policies; however, until then, the middle class and honest taxpayers will be the ones to bear the costs of the recent generous tuition grants to the lower class.

As Patrick Brown claims the Ontario liberal government is doing, “Why is this premier robbing Peter to pay Paul?” I believe that the current government has a lot of issues to address in their dwindling time to do so and that reforms to crucial sectors will only come at the expense of other important sectors.

Joseph Corazza
2nd year