This letter was written in response to “Tuition advocacy comes to fruition” by Rachel Katz in our March 3, 2016 issue.
Recent news of Ontario’s new budget was expected to be met with jubilation across post-secondary school campuses due to plans for free tuition. As Rachel Katz’s story in The Silhouette reports, “for long-term advocates of affordable tuition (this) marks a significant victory”. Except that this is really not a victory at all for those of us who are actually studying at a university or college right now, and this fact seems lost on the news media, as well as many students who haven’t yet realized the implications.
Rather than lamenting that full tuition will not be provided for those in more expensive programs, the emphasis here should be on the fact that those already burdened with crippling student loans, and those about to graduate by next year, got absolutely nothing from the Liberals. After all, the whole point of lowered tuition is to reduce student debt. Yet the message we got was that only those low-income families and individuals who will be in school from 2017 onward matter. Why this is the case, and how no one in government didn’t see the gross inequality, is a mystery. Put into perspective, many people finishing a standard four year degree next year will have accumulated approximately $30,000 owing after graduation, while their counterparts entering university during the 2017-2018 school year will finish with only about half that amount to pay back as a loan.
Perhaps there should be a push now to reduce the overall debt of current and past students still struggling with these obligations. A lifetime cap, as has been suggested previously by some, of $20,000 total would be a nice start. After all, we also have tuition tax credits which could be put toward that purpose. What we have now is a two-tier system, where in ten years time one generation of grads will have huge loans to still pay off while their younger cohorts enjoy a huge head start in life. In a country which constantly screams about equality, this oversight is truly appalling and mind-boggling.