The Ontario Government is facing opposition since its announcement last Monday that students attending private postsecondary schools are now eligible for the 30% Off Ontario Tuition Grant.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario urged the province to instead redirect funding from the 30% off grant—which still excludes international and mature students—towards universal tuition fee reductions for all.
“Ontario students are facing the highest tuition fees in the country, record levels of student debt, a dismal job market, and a lack of access to necessities like transportation,” said Alastair Woods, the chairperson of CFS-O, in a story published in the Northumberland View.
The CFS-O outlined its position in its recommendations for the 2014 provincial budget. In the document, “Addressing a Crisis”, the CFS-O calls the tuition grant “a restrictive program that has been accessed by less than a third of students”.
The grant, which is offered to students with a family income of less than $160,000, was previously only offered to students studying at publicly funded institutions. As a result of the government’s recent decision, the discount is now expected to reach 5,000 additional students this year.
International students remain ineligible for both the Ontario Tuition Grant and OSAP loans. While students enrolled in five-year co-op programs now qualify for the grant, most students who have been out of high school for over four years remain ineligible, except in special cases.
The CFS-O proposal calls on the government to eliminate the program and instead use the funds, as well as education tax credits, “to reduce tuition fees for all students, including international students, and for all programs, including professional programs, by 30% over three years”.
According to the Government of Ontario, approximately 230,000 students received the grant last year. CFS-O national executive representative Anna Goldfinch told the Toronto Star that 600,000 students in Ontario remain ineligible.
Goldfinch also took issue with the fact that fees for private colleges are not regulated, which the Toronto Star reports can cost up to four times as much as public institutions.
“The priority of the provincial government should be to make public postsecondary education more affordable, not find new ways to fund and promote private institutions,” she said.
But Emily Hedges, a representative of the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, defended the decision, pointing out that the government has also toughened OSAP eligibility requirements for students in private institutions.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario was scheduled to discuss its budget proposals with the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in North Bay last Wednesday.
The 30% Off Tuition Grant was introduced in 2012, the same year the provincial work-study program was discontinued. This year, the 30% Off grant is worth $1,730 for eligible degree students and $790 for eligible diploma and certificate students.