Provincial update: Standing up for public post-secondary education

Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP Ottawa Centre – 

The Ford government is making big changes to post-secondary education in Ontario: reducing funding, cutting back needs-based grants, and attacking the autonomy of student organizations. As a former university instructor, I’m deeply worried about how these changes will affect the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education. Here’s why the announced changes to post-secondary education are so damaging:

Reducing funding:

The government is implementing a 10 percent tuition fee cut for college and& university students for 2019-2020, followed by a freeze the next year. While I’m a strong supporter of reducing tuition fees, reductions must be accompanied by matching funding increases for institutions. The 10 percent reduction is unfunded, meaning universities and colleges will have to find ways of coping with a loss of revenue. This could mean larger class sizes, faculty layoffs and fewer course offerings.

Cutting needs-based grants:

OSAP grants that covered tuition fees for the lowest-income students will be eliminated, and funding for OSAP will be reduced to 2016 levels. In addition, the six-month interest-free grace period will be removed, meaning students will be charged interest immediately after graduation. At a time when students are graduating with mortgage-sized debt levels, we should be converting loans in to grants, not burdening students with even more debt.

Attacking student organizations:

Finally, the government is going to allow students to opt-out of paying dues to student unions, and other independent student organizations like campus radio stations and newspapers. This is importing American-style “right to work” rules and applying them to student unions. Ending mandatory dues payment will put vital student union-run services upon which students rely at risk, including: campus food banks, LGBTQ+ centres, u-pass transit programs, academic advocacy, and more.

We are organizing with local campus groups against these regressive changes. Contact our office if you’d like to get involved.

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