Should the House, under the new Premier, adopt a tuition freeze for all Ontarians?
V: As a fourth year student, I have come to love and dread OSAP. For an independently funded student, OSAP is the only way I am able to stay in school. I have worked part time for years but it does not pay all the bills at the end of the day. Every year, with a steady increase of around 5 percent to my tuition, I find myself acquiring more and more debt. 5 percent does not sound like much but it comes out to roughly $500 every year. Ontario once adopted a two-year tuition freeze between 2004 and 2006.
In 2006, the average university tuition for an undergraduate degree was about $5,000. My tuition costs roughly $6,600 today.
As you can see, there has been a steady but painful increase in fees. Maybe it is time to have another tuition freeze.
D: At first I thought, “Why don’t we already adopt this motion?” Quebec has had a tuition freeze for as long as I can remember. I always wondered how the Province of Quebec was able to afford such an initiative. Federal Transfers and Equalizers, as they are called, is the reallocation of Provincial revenues to different Provinces to ensure sustainable budgets. Ottawa reallocates 15 billion dollars a year of other Provinces’ revenues to Quebec. Granted, Ontario also benefits from this program.
My point is that we all share into the expensive initiative that is a ‘tuition freeze’. If a tuition freeze were to occur in Ontario, the plan would cost $110 million to implement in its first year, $195 million in the second, $280 million in the third and $365 million in four years time.
Since no party would ever consider a tax increase in the midst of the Premier leaving office, I would have to assume that the money that would be needed would come at the cost of social services, the arts, and other important facets of society. I don’t think I can watch another social service risk drastic funding cuts.
V: The assumption that I made is grounded strongly in the evidence that has been presented over the last few decades; when the going gets tough, the services get cut. However, the only way this assumption could fail is if the economic prosperity improves as a result of this tuition freeze.
“With the fastest growing tuition in the country and poor performance in the student summer job market, the province must act quickly to address the concern that higher education is becoming increasingly inaccessible for Ontario families,” commented Alysha Li, President of OUSA.
As is consistent with my experience, along with thousands of my peers - as tuition costs increase, the need for more student financial assistant increases with it.
Furthermore, as tuition costs begin to increase and outpace inflation rates, the number of individuals who find that education is becoming inaccessible is also increasing. These potential students cannot then engage themselves in the competitive market places of our economy and find meaningful employment. This is just as problematic as having social services, and other funding, cuts.
D: But is a tuition freeze the solution?
As much as I do not always align my interests with the Liberals, I did appreciate the 30 percent grant that was available to me, and many other students, whose families make an annual income of less than $160,000.
I feel as though this is a very accessible grant that many students have benefited from over the last year.
This initiative has cost the Province the same amount a tuition freeze would.
I would argue that this initiative has been better on the basis of accessibility, practicality and the direct financial benefit to students. Furthermore, I think that this program should be expanded, not in terms of accessibility but rather, to relieve even more of the financial stress of students.
I would much rather see the money that would be needed to start or sustain a tuition freeze be put into this initiative.
D: At the end of the day, this is not an easy issue to debate. A simple issue has a clear-cut answer. A complicated issue has a difficult problem with a tested solution that requires attention. A complex issue is a very difficult problem with no clear answer or sufficiently tested solution.
Tuition costs are important to all of us.
We all must bear this burden in some way, whether that is through the support of parents, tiresome employment, federal grants and loans, et cetera.
What we all, and the thousands of students who protested in the streets of Montreal, can agree upon is that tuition costs are too damn high.