Ontario Government Cancels Free Tuition for Low-Income Students

Students from lower-income families will no longer be able to obtain free tuition from the Ontario government.

But all students will be paying lower tuition fees across the board.

Today, the Ontario government formally announced that students at every publicly-assisted college and university will see their tuition rates go down by 10 per cent.

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.”

The change—which some have said will hurt the academic institutions by creating a substantial financial shortfall—also accompanies some alterations to the province’s much-used Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

Fullerton announced that the government will be “refocusing 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.”

Back in 2017, the previous provincial government announced that students from families with a combined income up to $175,000 would benefit from more generous grants and loans to assist with college and university expenses. This meant that more than one-third of all full-time college and university students in Ontario would receive free tuition.

Going forward, this will no longer be the case.

A recent CBC article points out that the Liberal’s program became quite costly. Recently, the auditor general revealed that costs for that program jumped by 25 per cent.

The government was warned the program could grow to $2 billion annually by 2020-21.

The PC government says their program will shift the focus to lower-income earners, adding that the changes will ensure 82 per cent of grants will go to students with a family income of less than $50,000.

“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 government said it will also allow students to decide which student fees they want to pay.

Fees for essential campus health and safety initiatives will continue to be mandatory.

According to the province, the decrease in tuition fees will save students anywhere from $300 to $1,120 a year (depending on their program and field of study).

While the move will no doubt be popular with students struggling to pay for tuition without assistance (according to the province, students in Ontario currently pay among the highest tuition rates in Canada, as the average university tuition is close to $9,000 and the average 2018-19 college tuition is $3,400), some critics have expressed concerns.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said he is opposed to Ford’s move to cut tuition, asking where the money will come from to pay for this cut.

The question remains, what revenue will fund this lower tuition? Will there be cuts to OSAP or other programs? Or will colleges and universities be expected to make up the shortfall?”, Schreiner said, adding that further cuts could compromise quality in education.

If Ford is going to slash revenue streams, he must compensate. A buck-a-beer approach won’t fix post-secondary problems.”

This in-depth blog post takes a deeper look at what cutting tuition by 10 per cent really means, such as how it would take $500 million out of the system and the impact of that move, how the cut benefits only higher income students and how this would negatively hit small town universities harder than more elite research universities.

Will you benefit from a tuition fee cut in Ontario?

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