In an interview with The Medium last week, premier Kathleen Wynne responded to the students’ call for free tuition by explaining how obtaining free tuition would restrict access to post-secondary education, as the government would have to come up with more money to afford the free education.
As previously reported by The Medium, students from across all three U of T campuses rallied in downtown Toronto for the National Day of Action on November 2, calling for free tuition.
“If we had to find the tax dollars to pay for university education for every student in the province, it would be billions and billions of dollars,” said Wynne. “And my position would be: let’s find the system where we partner with communities and families, and where it’s not possible to pay, we pay that, so that we can have more students in our post-secondary, not fewer.”
Wynne explained that 68 percent of students in Ontario have some kind of a post-secondary education, which stands as high participation in comparison to other jurisdictions that have 30 or 25 percent of post-secondary.
“If we said the province is just going to support everybody, you’d see what has happened in other jurisdictions, where a smaller percentage of population goes to post-secondary because the government and the tax dollars can only go so far,” Wynne continued in regards to free tuition for all students.
Effective this September, students from families who earn $50,000 or less will be getting free tuition for their post-secondary education. For families that earn between $50,000 and $80,000, four out of five students will be eligible for free tuition. Students from families with an income higher than $80,000 would still be able to receive 30 percent off of their tuition.
“We’ve targeted the real tuition relief to students who are right now accumulating an enormous amount of debt, or students who wouldn’t even come to post-secondary because the cost of tuition was too high,” stated Wynne.
She explained that students from low-income families are four times less likely than high-income families to attend post-secondary institutions.
In order to obtain this accessibility for low-income families, Wynne explained that the province cancelled the $400 million that anyone, particularly high-income families, were able to benefit from as a tax credit, and distributed the funds to low-income households.
According to Wynne, this change will help around 210,000 students in Ontario.
As previously reported by The Medium, UTMSU’s president Nour Alideeb had stated her concern about the Repayment Assistance Plan, which will require students to begin paying their loans when they start earning $25,000. Alideeb had commented that it is “unreasonable,” given that the average student debt is $26,800.
When brought to her attention, Wynne stated that the repayment plans are “geared to the incumbent that the person is earning.” She added that students would not be expected to start paying their debts all at once.
“We’d love to be able to forgive the loans, but we just don’t have the capacity to do that,” said Wynne.
The premier spent nearly an hour with UTM students in the Kaneff building, where students got to ask questions about fees, the recent extremist activities, and others.
In an email to The Medium, Alideeb stated that she was “disappointed” in the premier’s visit to UTM. She stated that after discussing it with many students, “they felt as though it was disingenuous and I would have to agree with them.”
“Her response about free tuition for all students is what bothered me the most,” wrote Alideeb, “Especially when she claimed that “if all students had free tuition, we would run out of resources.”
Alideeb added that UTMSU’s “Fight the Fees” campaign has statistics that support their cause.
“I think it is inappropriate to lie to students,” she said, “The truth is, many parties just don’t want to shift their priorities around to make post-secondary education free and accessible to all.”
The OSAP changes are expected to become effective this September.