Is this really what we have all been asking for? Us, the post-secondary students of Ontario. Set to come into effect September 2019, tuition fees for post-secondary education will be cut by a staggering 10 per cent.
The motion to cut tuition fees was announced by Premier Doug Ford on Jan. 17. It has been a long-anticipated cut for students across Ontario as undergraduate full-time tuition continues to outpace inflation. It is not a surprise most graduating students have a debt of approximately $28,000 upon completion of their undergraduate studies. This tuition fee cut introduced by the Ford government sounds like the perfect idea: it would save the average post-secondary university student approximately $660 a year. But is this tuition cut really all that great?
Come September 2019, Ford’s new government policies will be implemented. One new policy will allow students the option to opt-out of fees they pay every year to their home school. These fees can include organizations, school’s fees and personal health care fees. The option to opt-out of fees can save students anywhere from several hundred dollars to $2,000 per year. Although many fees will have an opt-out option, some campus wide initiatives will have a mandatory fee, including: “walk safe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support.” Students have been fighting for decades to get more compensation for engaging in post-secondary education, but governments before Ford's haven't alleviated universities' growing financial burdens. Is it maybe too good to be true?
$660 may sound like a lot of money, but once it is broken down into the expenses of a full-time student, it is clear it will not cover the basic costs that come along with post-secondary education. Some required textbooks range upwards of $200 for one class. With a full course load, including five courses a semester, $660 might not even cover them all. This does not even include costs of laptops, papers, pens and notebooks. It may seem like a substantial amount of money, but when all is said and done, it's clearly not enough for students.
With the 10 per cent tuition cut, the Ford government has changed the Ontario Student Assistance Program loans grace period and will now begin charging interest on OSAP loans directly following graduation. Ford's plan is to “align Ontario’s repayment terms with that of the federal government by charging interest during the six-month grace period." Remember the $660 the Ford government made seem so great; how does it sound now? Although every year your OSAP loans will be less, you will still need to pay them, with interest building directly after your graduation. By implementing a 10 per cent tuition cut students have been asking for, there comes a set of consequences. The Ford government has made this very clear.
Unfortunately, the extra $660 post-secondary students will now have in their pockets, as well as a potential $2,000, has not kept students from being furious about the OSAP loan grace period being taken away. Even with the 10 per cent relief, bank accounts will dwindle following graduation for those students being required to repay their OSAP loan and extra accrued interest.
Lowered tuition costs were a major win for post-secondary students across the province, but it was quickly squandered by the surprising OSAP loan changes. Is it the Ford government’s fault or were students naive to think their wish of being granted lower tuition costs would come with no consequences? It is hard to have one without the other.
So the question is whether the tuition cut was really what we, the students, have all been asking for. Tuition might be cheaper, but our debt will be higher and our bank accounts lower.
- Margaret Hill, second-year political science and French literature student
Correction (11:54 p.m., Feb. 23): This article was updated in paragraph five and six to clarify that the accrued interest will create larger debt sooner, but isn't necessarily going to be paid immediately given the ongoing six month grace period.