The free tuition program introduced by the Liberal government will soon be a thing of the past, with the Ontario government returning to a grant-and-loan system it says is more financially sustainable and that will still help needy students attend college or university.
As part of a package of post-secondary reforms announced Thursday, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton said Ontario’s college and university students will be paying 10 per cent less in tuition and that most student fees — which can add up to $2,000 each year — will no longer be mandatory.
Students won’t be able to opt out of paying for campus programs that affect health and wellness — such as athletics or a walksafe service — but there will be some flexibility for institutions on whether LGBT supports remain a part of the mandatory ancillary fees students pay on top of tuition, Fullerton said.
The changes mean “significant savings for students and their families,” she said, while also addressing the concerns of the auditor general about the cost and effectiveness of the current student aid system.
Fullerton also confirmed that post-secondary institutions will not be reimbursed for the loss of tuition fees because of the decrease — which has been estimated at about $440 million dollars.
“Universities are autonomous, colleges are relatively independent, and they will make choices in terms of what they need to do,” she said. “There are different ways they can adapt and I have full confidence in our institutions … they will be able to do what they need to do to change” and innovate.
But Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter — a former post-secondary minister — said the government’s move will only add to students’ debt when they graduate.
“Only Doug Ford would introduce a student aid plan that will help the wealthiest students at the expense of those who need help the most,” said Hunter, who was in Ottawa Thursday to meet with post-secondary students.
“The Ford government tuition cut will benefit only the wealthiest and the government. Because tuition will be lowered, the government will be spending less money on tuition fees through OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program). Needy students will see next to no benefits because under the previous program they were already being provided for.
“Wealthy students, who never qualified for OSAP in the first place, are being given a 10 per cent tuition cut even though they can afford it the most.”