We’re putting out this statement with concern towards the provincial government’s new policy towards cuts in tuition and OSAP.
As of this moment, the announcement, as we understand it, is not official policy yet. However, our main concerns are the cut to the six-month interest free grace period, and the introduction of an opt-out option to ancillary fees.
The six-month interest free grace period is necessary to new graduates. Paying back OSAP upon graduation is already an endeavour for students entering into the workforce. The grace period was enough to help decrease debt for students, and give them an opportunity to properly pay back OSAP without the worry about interest as they look to begin their careers. With this announcement about eliminating the grace period, it becomes extremely problematic for graduates, as debt will increase immediately, and the likelihood of being able to pay off OSAP properly will most likely take longer than usual, despite the 10per cent cut for tuition.
The opt-out option to ancillary fees is also a concern that we as journalists have. More importantly, societies and clubs on campus all around Ontario will struggle with the introduction of this new option. We understand students do pay a significant amount as part of their tuition towards societies and clubs, we were students too, and a fee at the amount that UTM students pay is significant. However, it’s important to understand what these fees go towards.
Clubs and associations benefit from the fees paid towards them in impactful ways. They are the center of the student experience. These are all spaces for students to identify, connect, and feel a part of something that is true to their interests, cultures, and religions. With an opt-out option, a major risk of these clubs losing their funding runs high, and suddenly students lose 50 per cent of their experience at university.
It can be easy to say that you’ll opt-out of fees that are deemed “non-essential” because you don’t use them. However, we ask that you reflect on how clubs, services, societies, etc. are all essential to the student experience and how these benefit the campus environment.
This brings us to our concern. The Medium is a part of the student fees and whether you support campus journalism, or read our paper, the purpose of student newspapers is still the same from campus to campus—we ask the questions, and do everything we can to deliver the answers. We inform you about as many happenings on campus as possible. Campus journalism often times holds anyone on campus with a position of power accountable for their actions. We allow journalistic opportunities to students who want writing experience on campus. While it may be easy to dismiss campus journalism because it may not be something you engage with, understand that if funding is lost towards it, you lose an essential service that may not be simple to get back in the future. Consider this, without your campus journalism, you lose your ability and resources to stay up-to date when major events that impact your education are on-going, such as knowing about fee increases implemented by the administration. Suddenly, no one is consistently asking about what your money is being used for by our administration and unions. Your tuition becomes a bucket of money spilled into hands, with no accountability towards it. Regardless of whether you read The Medium, The Varsity, The Underground, etc., it is a service that has been here to serve its purpose so that as a member of these campus’, you can stay informed at any time.
Ultimately we cannot control your decision, but we can ask that you understand and reflect on what it means to opt-out of ancillary fees. Spaces where students can feel welcomed and understood will be taken away, essential on-campus journalism will be stripped of its voice, and you will lose much more than can be understood at this moment.
Once these services are gone because of a lack of funding, it will be extremely difficult to bring it back. We hope the provincial government and the university understand that all campus media, including The Medium, are essential services that contribute greatly to freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.