Half of students to receive grant
Premier Dalton McGuinty hailed his $423-million investment in post secondary education as the smartest move for the Ontario government in the current economic climate as he officially unveiled a new tuition grant program at Wilfrid Laurier University last Thursday morning.
The grant, a campaign promise the Liberals made during October’s election, will refund eligible college and university students 30 per cent of their tuition. This adds up to $800 per semester for university students and $365 for students in college.
“The foundation of our strength here in Ontario remains the skills and education level of our people,” McGuinty told reporters on Thursday. “The message that we’re sending to young people is that we want to do more to help you go to college and university. Not only is it in [students’] interest but it’s in our interest as we develop a stronger and more competitive economy.”
The implementation of the program has been met with criticism, however, as the Ontario government currently faces a sizeable deficit.
“I don’t think we can afford this tuition cut,” said Rob Leone, Progressive Conservative MPP for Cambridge and the PC critic on Training, Colleges and Universities.
“At this point in time, we have a $16-billion deficit, we need to fix that problem before we start creating these new ideas about where we’re going to spend money.”
The announcement also came in the wake of reports that the Liberals will soon be faced with substantial cuts to all ministries. The government hired former TD Bank executive Don Drummond to produce a report on how the province can reduce spending his recommendations will reportedly see cuts that will draw public ire.
Drummond’s report is set to be made public at the end of the month.
“These are serious times, and it’s something that we anticipated, which is why we commissioned Mr. Drummond,” said McGuinty.
“Our platform was a reflection of the serious times. It was one-third the cost of the other platform … Mr. Drummond will provide us with several hundred recommendations and we look forward to receiving those. Of course, his responsibility is to advise, ours is to decide.”
The PCs have also criticized the government for spending money on this tuition rebate program- the most Liberals’ most expensive commitment — instead of investing in programs more focused on job creation.
“We need to make sure that [students] are finding jobs when they’re done school,” said Leone. “We don’t see a proper jobs plan … .These students, once they’re done [school] are going to have a whole lifetime of paying for the excesses of this government.”
However, among students, the grant has been generally well received.
“It’s one of the largest investments ever made in post secondary education,” said Sean Madden, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). “I am a little disappointed to see some programming cuts [in existing grant and scholarship programs] go towards subsidizing the grants, but it remains a real positive for students … We usually don’t see anything so broad. A program that gets [money] to about half the students is good statistic.”
According to Madden, about 52 per cent of students currently enrolled in college or university will qualify for the grant.
The rebate was restricted to full-time undergraduate or college students who are less than four years out of high school and whose parents combined incomes is less than $160,000.
This excludes part-time, graduate and mature students.
Madden went on to say that there are existing “boutique-style” grant programs that can help students that don’t qualify for the newly unveiled rebate.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication date.