TORONTO: For the first time in Ontario, students at every publicly-assisted college and university will see their tuition rates go down by 10 per cent thanks to a province-wide tuition rate reduction introduced by the Ontario Government.
“We believe that if you’ve got the grades, you deserve access to an affordable postsecondary education,” said Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “By lowering tuition across the entire province, our government is ensuring that all qualified Ontario students will have more affordable access to high quality skills, training and education.”
Fullerton also announced that the government will be refocussing the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to ensure it remains sustainable and viable for future students while directing a greater proportion of OSAP funding to families with the greatest financial need.
“The previous government believed in handing out OSAP money to some of Ontario’s highest income earners with virtually no meaningful criteria for success,” said Fullerton. “It is no surprise that student enrolment has remained flat while tuition rates skyrocketed. Instead of using OSAP to indirectly subsidize future rounds of tuition hikes, we will focus our resources on the families in greatest need while challenging our partners in the postsecondary sector to deliver better value for the high tuitions they already charge.”
The Minister also announced a Student Choice Initiative through which every individual student in Ontario will be empowered to choose which student fees they want to pay and how that money will be allocated. Fees for essential campus health and safety initiatives will continue to be mandatory.
“Student fees in Ontario can range as high as $2000 per year and, too often, force students to pay for services they do not use and organizations they do not support,” said Fullerton. “We will ensure students have transparency and freedom of choice regarding the campus services and organizations which get access to their money.”
“By making postsecondary education more affordable through historic reforms, refocussing supports to the families who need it most, and empowering students to choose how their fees are spent, we are restoring accountability, affordability and access” Fullerton concluded.
Average university tuition in Ontario has increased significantly since the mid-1990s and is currently the highest in any Canadian province.
A student attending Conestoga College enrolled in a Practical Nursing program would see a $300 reduction in their 2019-20 academic year tuition. An arts and science undergraduate student at the University of Guelph would see a reduction of $700. An engineering student at Carleton University would see a reduction of $1,120. Students pay fees in addition to tuition, which can range from approximately several hundred dollars to $2,000 per academic year.
The Auditor General recently tabled a report highlighting concerns with the way OSAP was administered as well as drastic overspending. The report concluded that despite the previous government’s excessive spending, OSAP did not result in proportionately higher enrolment.
The government will administer a fund to help smaller, Northern institutions adjust to the tuition rate reduction. The opposition NDP is wonder what else is coming is coming from the Ford government. Colleges and universities critic Chris Glover says he is concerned that Ontario Student Assistance Plan grants will be cut.
The previous Liberal government increased the number of grants and made it possible for students with the greatest financial need to attend college or university free of cost. But the auditor general found last month that costs for that program jumped by 25 per cent and warned it could grow to $2 billion annually by 2020-21.
The Tories are in the midst of trying to trim a deficit they peg at $14.5 billion _ though the financial accountability officer says it’s closer to $12 billion.
Glover said: “Doug Ford’s tuition announcement is…. a smoke and mirrors exercise. Ontario’s college and university students know that they are not going to benefit from a Doug Ford government.
“The Ford government is not going to fund a two-year tuition freeze it’s imposing, forcing colleges and universities to accept what is estimated to be a $250-million revenue loss. That means cancelled courses, larger class sizes and laid-off faculty. Students will likely pay for the freeze with two years of a lower quality education — followed by skyrocketing tuition in 2021 to make up for the shortfall.
“Ontario already has the lowest per-student funding in Canada, the highest levels of student debt, the largest class sizes and the most precariously employed professors. The NDP has proposed a new system that would see provincial student loans converted to grants.
“That would means schools and students would both win, and new graduates wouldn’t saddled with a debt load that weighs them down just as they’re starting out,” Glover said.