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Are Ontario budget cuts the right move?

author: jacob nelson | staff writer

                                                          andre forget via wikimedia commons

There are a lot of difficulties that come with attending university. You must manage a new workload, social life, and for a lot of you, you also must work in order to afford your schooling. Tuition has always been a hot topic for students throughout Canada.  

Tuition rates fluctuate from province to province, and provinces like Saskatchewan and Ontario have always had higher-than-average tuition rates. While the government tries to provide some cushioning for students that have trouble affording school, for someone who can barely afford groceries week-to-week, paying expensive tuition fees is never an easy task. 

Saskatchewan has always had a tough time managing tuition fees. According to Statista, Saskatchewan has the thirdhighest average tuition rate in all of Canada for the 2018/19 year, with an average cost of $7,500. A lot of scholarships and grants are provided by the government to help reduce these costs. Schools like the University of Regina have an entire database dedicated to the different financial aids that students can apply for. SAMS not only shows you all the scholarships you can apply for, but helps you through the process of applying for as many as you want at one time. But, of course, there are never going to be enough scholarships for everyone to have access to low-cost schooling. Most of the priority, then, goes toward those with low income. The provincial and federal government also provide grants to full-time and part-time students – again, with most of these grants going to low-income families.  

This assisted access to education provides many people with an opportunity to further their academic understanding of the parts of life that interest them. It fosters an educated population that can analyze problems society faces, providing solutions to help overcome these problems. Areas like computer science, for example, provide students with the knowledge to better understand things like security threats. Other courses like environmental engineering help us learn how we can provide society with the resources they need, while also lessening the impact that providing those resources has on the planet, like waste water management.  

Wealth does not necessarily determine one’s ability to learn and understand. This is why it is important that things like schooling are accessible to everyone. Free education is available in some European countries , regardless of wealth, to attend school. While Canada has many amazing features, this free schooling is not one of them. Federal and provincial governments both provide financial support to students and schools across the country in order to lessen the stress of money on everyone, but this is something that Ontario is having trouble managing.  

Ontario Premiere Doug Ford announced earlier this year that lowincome grants were going to be cut from the province.  

The Ontario Student Assistance Plan grants had become unsustainable and it was time to refocus it to provide help to students in the most financial need, Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrilee Fullerton told the CBC 

The previous Liberal government had increased the amount of grants available to lowincome students that could help them attend school at virtually no cost. But, the Progressive Conservatives have found that this plan is costing the province a high amount of money. In just a few months, costs to the province increased by 25 per cent and could possibly get to an annual cost of $2 billion by 2020.  

The new plan would see funding accessible for families earning up to a maximum of $140,000 a year, $35,000 less than the maximum under the Liberal government. Lowincome families will also see a portion of their grants taken away and instead replaced by loans. This move will supposedly take a lot of pressure off the provinces budget. The current budget allows for an increase in tuition to a maximum of 3 per cent by the end of this academic year, but the new plan proposed would see tuition rates actually decrease by 10 per cent for the 2019/2020 year, and then be frozen the year after. Fullerton said that post-secondary institutions will have to be the ones to absorb the cost.  

“They will make choices in terms of what they need to do,” she said. “They will be able to determine what they need to do to change, to adapt and innovate.”  

Okay, so how will this affect students’ studies? Will the quality of education be reduced because of their lack of income, or will the quality of life on campus suffer? I think both will become the case, seeing as the two go hand in hand. This move would see about $360 million taken away from universities and $80 million taken away from colleges. Operating grants provided to the schools by the province, however, would not be reduced. Grants like these will only be provided to schools that take part in the tuition reduction. 

Canada has a relatively short history compared to many other countries. However, in that short time frame, we have managed to create a nation that not only provides universal health care, but also a high quality of life globally  and that’s why the Ontario government making this move is hard to wrap my head around. 

Part of me wants to be angry with the government for taking away the opportunity for a large portion of our population to help advance Canadas societal objectives. But a cut like this cannot be taken at face value. This isn’t necessarily the government telling society that only some of them are worthy of higher education, it’s their way of visualizing the bigger picture. They know that they cannot afford grants like these in the long-term and are instead going to try and apply a different tactic of reducing cost for schooling overall, while still providing financial relief to students in the form of loans. 

I hope Ontario is doing the right thing here, because regardless of the province we live in, we are dependent on one another to contribute to our country’s knowledge and future wellbeing. 

About Jacob Nelson

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