Liberals roll out tuition grant at Laurier


On Thursday morning Dalton McGuinty paid a visit to the Wilfrid Laurier University campus, bringing with him some news that university and college students across Ontario had a keen eye on.

McGuinty announced the official launch of the Ontario tuition grant, an election promise the Liberals made in the fall to offer just over 300,000 students a 30 per cent rebate on their tuition. Starting today, Ontario post secondary students can log on to the tuition grant website to see if they qualify for a grant that will total $800 for university students and $365 for college students.

Following the end of this academic year, the rebate, which will cost the government $423 million annually, will grant $1,600 annually to university students and $700 a year to those in college.

Eligible students that currently use the Ontario Students’ Assistance Program (OSAP) will be automatically registered for the grant. Students not on OSAP will need to provide the social insurance numbers of themselves and their parents and line 150 of their parents’ income tax return.

“The foundation of our strength here in Ontario remains the skills and education level of our people,” McGuinty told reporters after joining Laurier president Max Blouw, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union president Nick Gibson and Kitchener Centre Liberal MPP John Milloy in addressing a first-year business class before meeting with members of the WLU young Liberals.

“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 grant, however, is not without its caveats.

It is 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.

In all, roughly 310,000 college and university students across Ontario will qualify for the grant. This accounts for approximately 52 per cent of the total student population in the province, which according to the Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance (OUSA) is about 600,000.

“In an ideal world, we’d have the program available for all of our students but $423 million on an annual basis only gets you so far,” said McGuinty, when asked about excluding certain students. “We made a judgement call on this and we stand to be judged.”

The $423 million-cost of this tuition rebate has brought criticism on the Liberals, who currently face a $16-billion deficit. According to McGuinty, the funding was “found from within” through eliminating existing programs such as the textbook and technology grant the Queen Elizabeth II grant program. However, the premier did admit that the program is currently only funded for this year and the government still needs to find the money to fund future years.

Critics meanwhile, remain unimpressed.

“I don’t think we can afford this tuition cut,” said Progressive Conservative MPP for Cambridge Rob Leone. “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.”

Leone went on to say that though this grant program may create more opportunities for young people to go to university or college, it doesn’t help with youth unemployment.

“We need to make sure that [students] are finding jobs when they’re done school,” he said. “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.”

The rebate will be issued on a per semester basis. The deadline for students to apply for the term that started this month is March 31.

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