Tuition grant is a step in the right direction for Liberals

In The Cord’s Sept. 28 endorsement of Premier Dalton McGuinty and local Liberal candidate Eric Davis in the October provincial election, the 30 per cent tuition grant was hailed as “welcome assistance to the province’s students as they seek to finance their education in increasingly difficult economic times.”

This is still the position of this newspaper and the editorial board commends the announcement at Wilfrid Laurier University last week that the grant is on the way; the tuition proposal is a promise kept by the Ontario Liberal government.
Ontario undergraduate students currently spend just over $6,300 on tuition each year on average. In the last 15 years, the average debt of an Ontario undergraduate student has risen 175 per cent from $8,000 to $22,000, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.

While the 30 per cent tuition grant will not completely alleviate these financial pains, it is a step in the right direction in easing the burden on Ontario students seeking to get a leg up in an increasingly global economy.

With that said, one must also consider the potential downfall and limitations of this proposal. The tuition grant is a costly program, one the premier has admitted is not fully costed through the next few years. This inevitably means that other public policy areas are impacted.

One such area was the elimination of $42 million worth of research grants just days before the tuition grant was implemented. This money was responsible for $1.1 billion worth of matched contributions by institutions and private sector businesses in its first five rounds. To say that this will have a possibly detrimental impact on Ontario research and innovation is not an understatement.

Furthermore, the fight to make education more accessible is far from over. Firstly, for students whose parents do make more than $160,000 combined, they are not eligible for the grant. These students are not necessarily more well off since they won’t be receiving as much in OSAP assistance in the first place.

Secondly, for students who have been out of high school for more than four years, the grant is out of reach for them. While it is understandable that constraints must be placed on a program like this, this restriction places a value judgment on those students who took a break after high school.

These students have not necessarily spent more time in university but instead spent time working and gaining professional experience before pursuing post secondary education. If the government believes that students who take longer than four years to complete university should not receive the same tuition grant, that’s understandable, but this should not preclude students who did not immediately enter university.

The tuition grant is a welcome addition to the Liberal government’s set of post secondary policies. While it does have limitations, it is refreshing to see a government to follow through on its election vision.

—The Cord Editorial Board

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